Concerns about pending layoffs, reduced hiring expectations and weakened confidence regarding personal finances all contributed to a decline in worker confidence in March, according to the Hudson Employment Index for accounting and finance workers.

The index for workers in the industry fell 4.2 points, to 108.8, while the national average decreased two points, to 106.2. The index measures employee confidence monthly in a survey of approximately 9,000 workers nationwide across all industries.

Notably, the number of workers expecting their employers to lay off staff rose to a record high of 24 percent. The number of workers expecting their firms to hire dropped one point, to 32 percent, although confidence regarding hiring expectations was higher in March than in all of 2005. In addition, fewer workers anticipated their firms would resort to layoffs, declining 1 percent, to 16 percent.

"While the latest index registered a slight hiccup in worker confidence in March, the last two months indicate that the job market continues to strengthen, particularly compared to last year," said executive vice president of Hudson-North America Steve Wolfe, in a statement. "Leading indicators are pointing in multiple directions, but the work force is holding onto a general sense of financial well-being and job satisfaction."While 46 percent rated their finances as excellent or good this March, only 43 percent of surveyed workers made that same claim one year ago. There was also a one-point year-over-year drop to 15 percent in the number of workers who described their financial situations as poor.

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