Press Release

Survey: 42% of U.S. Employees Are Worried About Getting Laid Off This Year Due to Fear of a Recession, Which May Be Changing Workplace Behaviors

A survey conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by Justworks reveals that over a quarter of employees say they have started a side gig or side hustle in response to the current economic environment

NEW YORK - March 9, 2023 — Justworks, the HR technology platform providing small businesses access to benefits, payroll, HR tools and compliance support, today announced the findings of a Harris Poll-conducted survey: The Recession Watch and Workplace Behavior Snapshot. The potential for a recession, worsening company culture, and layoffs seem to be concerning for employees in the U.S. After trends like the “Great Resignation” and “Quiet Quitting,” the tide has shifted this year with a looming recession.

The Recession Watch and Workplace Behavior Snapshot reveals that over two in five full-time/part-time U.S. employees (42%) are worried about getting laid off due to the looming recession, and even more employees worry about worsening company culture (52%).

“Our own customer data, predominantly talent-centric small businesses, shows that many are slowing hiring and some are reducing staff,” stated Justworks’ President and CEO Mike Seckler. “The pandemic-era growth mindset is adjusting in the face of this economic downturn, and companies are reacting accordingly. The national data from The Harris Poll further confirms that the relationships between employers and employees are shifting. For employers, as hiring slows, it’s important to maintain a long-term view by developing existing talent and investing in areas that directly support customers. Promisingly, even as employees change their behavior at work, there are already sparks of entrepreneurial energy that will drive the next wave of business formation.”

Some employees are taking action with their finances to prepare for a recession, with 50% reducing their spending, 38% putting money into savings, 31% taking money out of savings, and just over a quarter (27%) saying they have started a side gig or side hustle.

“As the business cycle shifts, more employees are seeing the value in a side hustle and even starting a business of their own,” explained Seckler. “The next generation of great startups will benefit from the fact that it’s easier to start a business than ever before. We’ll be doing our part at Justworks to make that dream a reality for as many first-time founders as possible.”

The survey shows that the threat of layoffs seems to present workers with the stressful choice between reinforcing the value they provide in their current role or facing a sparse job market. Workers are reacting to this concern in a variety of ways. Some have doubled down on ensuring they are providing value in their current role, with 47% saying they have changed their behavior at work to avoid being laid off, and 35% saying they’ve started working longer hours because of the current economic environment.

Some employees are also starting the process of searching for their next job while still in their current position, a phenomenon known as “Career Cushioning.” In line with this trend, the survey found that 28% of workers are updating their resume, with 24% actively applying for jobs because of the current economic environment. Yet, even for those anticipating a job hunt, the process is seen as more daunting than before this economic downturn. Due to the current economic climate, half of U.S. employees (50%) feel they have fewer job opportunities available to them, and 10% say they have stopped looking for a new job.

White collar workers, traditionally those who work in an office, cubicle, or other administrative setting, are more worried about certain aspects of the looming recession, in particular, their reduced negotiating power. Three in five (60%) white collar workers are worrying that they will not be getting a raise this year, compared to just over half (53%) of non-white collar workers. This may be in part because they are also more likely to feel that they have less leverage to ask for a raise now than before the looming recession, compared to their counterparts (59% vs. 52%).

The effects of this economic cycle on work culture are not to be overlooked – with many citing increased competitiveness among their colleagues as well as worry about reduced offered benefits or perks. Nearly half (46%) say that their coworkers are more competitive at work now than before the looming recession, and a similar proportion (44%) say they are worried about working longer hours due to the current economic climate. Additionally, nearly half (48%) say they are worried about a reduction in offered benefits or perks at their company – which signals that the culture issues may extend beyond just the competition among employees.

For more information about the Justworks and The Harris Poll Recession Watch and Workplace Behavior Snapshot, visit For press inquiries, contact [email protected].

About the SurveyThis survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Justworks from January 19-23, 2023 among 2,026 U.S. adults ages 18 and older including 1,099 respondents who are employed either full time or part time. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

About Justworks: Justworks is an HR technology platform providing small businesses access to benefits, payroll, HR tools and compliance support — all in one place. Justworks' dynamic software, combined with a simple user experience, 24/7 expert support and a growing community, enables entrepreneurs and their businesses to grow with confidence. To learn more, visit, follow us on Twitter @Justworks, LinkedIn @Justworks, and Instagram @Justworks.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.

Looking for more?

Scale your business and build your team — no matter which way it grows. Access the tools, perks, and resources to help you stay compliant and grow in all 50 states.