If the nation next week goes off the so-called “fiscal cliff,” 74 percent of American workers — according to a survey released Thursday — will fear layoffs. Scott George, a civilian employee at Tinker Air Force Base, will be one of them.
“With cuts coming to the nation's defense budget, thousands of Department of Defense employees' jobs may be in jeopardy,” said George of Choctaw.
“We have been told that there are funds to operate for a short amount of time, exactly how long that is, no one is saying,” George said. Though he has more than 30 years' service, George still could be affected by potential furloughs, he said.
In an online survey conducted this month by New Jersey-based Lee Hecht Harrison career consulting firm, 74 percent of more than 200 American workers polled said they were concerned the “fiscal cliff” could lead to layoffs. Forty percent are very concerned; 22 percent, moderately; 14 percent, slightly; and 26 percent, not at all.
Since the government sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of Oklahoma employment, “sequestration” — or the across-the-board reduction in federal spending put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — “could have a huge effect on government employees,” Oklahoma City certified financial planner Troy Jones said.
Otherwise, there likely aren't many Oklahoma employees worried about layoffs, Jones said.
Conversely, Tulsa headhunter Tony Wolters said, based on feedback from his clients, the “fiscal cliff” already is causing layoffs across all industries, including some 15 employees terminated last month by Hard Rock Casino.
“It may not matter if this is resolved or not, it gives companies that may have struggled in the past year an ‘excuse' to lay off or downsize,” Wolters said. “Layoffs are quietly occurring, small in number so far, but will pick up after the first of the year,” he said.
If federal legislators fail to reach an agreement in the first few weeks of January, it very well could lead to layoffs, agrees Lynn Gray, an economist with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
But based on the initial claims for unemployment insurance, Oklahoma by all indications is recovering, Gray said. Last week's claims numbered roughly 356,750 nationwide — down from some 650,000 in early 2009 and about equal to the claims in December 2007, the month before the recession hit.
“Even in the really good times we enjoyed in 2006 and 2007, weekly initial claims never were below 300,000,” Gray said.
Meanwhile, Jeweler Valerie Naifeh said she has no plans to reduce her staff, but does believe economic worries will affect her customers' spending habits.
“We will, most likely, tailor our buying for the next 12 months in a way that reflects our clients' pessimism, rather than our optimism,” Naifeh said.
Jeannie Bowden, an economic development officer in Duncan — where unemployment, for now, remains very low — says “Let's Go!” to the “fiscal cliff.”
“If our elected federal officials can't figure it out, I am glad something is in place to reduce our deficit,” Bowden said. “I don't think it will be easy and I think some, maybe me or my loved ones, will have a difficult time. But I do not wish our nation to ultimately fall, or become much weaker, because we couldn't make the tough decisions.”