updated 8/28/2008 11:41:39 AM ET 2008-08-28T15:41:39

American workers’ confidence in the job market is as low as it was during the 2001 recession, according to a survey released Thursday.

When asked whether this is a bad time to find a quality job, 65 percent said it was, matching the level of the 2001 recession, according to the survey by Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development.

With unemployment at 5.7 percent, the highest level since 2004, and weekly unemployment claims hitting a six-year high earlier this month, workers are worried about everything from their weekly hours to their total pay.

As for retirement, many agree with Ray O’Connell, 56, an editor of engineering and computer science journals in New York City. “Won’t happen,” he said.

The survey found one third of workers said they often don’t have enough money to make ends meet.

About one-third of respondents say the amount they owe on credit cards exceeds their retirement savings; another 3 percent say their credit card debt would cancel out their retirement account, according to the random survey of 1,000 people, 587 of whom are in the labor force.

Only half of respondents said they are working the number of hours they want to work and a third say there has been a change in the number of hours they work in the past three months. Eighteen percent were working more hours, and 14 percent worked fewer.

“This is a startling amount of change in a major area of people’s lives over a very short period,” according to a report on the survey called “The Anxious American Worker.”

Nearly a third of respondents believe they are treated less as a person by their employer and more as “just someone who works” at their job.

Still, 91 percent of workers say they’re “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs. A majority of American workers hold favorable attitudes toward their health and retirement benefits (62 percent), the number of hours they work (83 percent), and their annual income (74 percent).

However, only 55 percent of hourly workers are satisfied with their health and medical benefits, compared to 75 percent of salaried workers.

The survey also shows a wide disparity in parents’ working hours: women with children at home work an average of 36 hours a week, while men with children at home work 48 hours per week.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they saved for retirement beyond their Social Security contributions, while 73 percent contribute to employer-sponsored retirement plans, and 67 percent report contributing to non-employer sponsored retirement plans. These figures are virtually unchanged from when the same questions were asked in 2005, and are down slightly from 2000.

Asked who is responsible for helping laid off workers, only 27 percent said workers were responsible for helping themselves, down from 52 percent in June 2003. Roughly one fifth said the government was responsible and another quarter said employers were responsible. The other options were combinations, such as workers and employers, workers and government, or all three equally were responsible.

The study had a sampling of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent, for workers in the labor force.

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