Last month I pointed out that subjective job security, that is how likely people think they are to keep their jobs over the next twelve months, was at its highest level since surveys began (I expanded on this for ABC Radio’s Counterpoint last Monday).
With the release this morning of new labour market mobility data we can see that, on this at least, subjective and objective measure are moving in the same direction. The proportion of workers experiencing involuntary job loss is certainly the lowest since 1988, and quite possibly the lowest since records began, on 6% of people who worked during the year. If we take out those who were in temporary or seasonal jobs or had to quit due to ill health or injury, the retrenchment rate was 2.2%. In the first job mobility survey, back in 1972 before the 1970s economic crisis took hold, it was 2.7%, and it reached 6.4% during 1992.
Though objective and subjective measures of job security are moving in the same direction, there is a big gap between them. For example, if we average the Morgan job security survey results for the relevant years, about 17% of workers thought they had a chance of unemployment, though only 6% actually did lose their jobs. Using HILDA data (pdf, p.82) the Melbourne Institute has calculated that the correlation between a respondent’s own estimate of job loss and actual job loss was just .15. While this was a better predictor than anything else, people significantly over-estimate their chances of losing their job. There are a lot of people worrying about an event that won’t happen to them.
This is not to say that all is well in the labour market. Compared to the early 1970s, more men of working age have avoided being sacked by not holding any job at all during the year. But if you do have a job, the strong economy makes employment more secure than at any recent time.