Washingtonians remain cautious about their job security, despite steady improvement of statewide hiring trends, according to data released in the 4th Annual Washington State Workplace Confidence Survey.

The survey, conducted by Harris/Decima on behalf of Everest College, revealed that 33 percent of Washington workers were concerned about losing their job, similar to 2011 when 30 percent of respondents said they were concerned about losing their jobs.

Washington's unemployment rate remained flat at 8.3 percent for the months of February and March. This equates to about 289,000 people who were unemployed and looking for work during that period, down from a peak of more than 365,000 in February 2010.

“An improving economic landscape and lower unemployment numbers have not yet eased anxiety in the workplace,” said John Swartz, regional director of career services for Everest College. “In spite of the moderate improvements on the hiring front, job security remains top-of-mind for many people. At Everest, we are seeing students of all ages enroll in our schools in order to receive training to enhance their existing skills or begin a career in a field that is in-demand and provides job security.”

Pay leading source of stress

The survey found that workplace anxiety levels in Washington are high, with 60 percent of survey respondents claiming they suffer from some form of work-related stress. The top stress factor cited by respondents was pay (25 percent), followed by fear of losing their job (19 percent).

Age and income are determining factors when it comes to whether respondents are stressed at work. Younger employees are more likely than their older counterparts to be stressed by something in their job (18-44, 69 percent vs. 45-plus, 53 percent). And, those with annual household incomes of less than $60,000 (70 percent) were more likely to be stressed than those with incomes greater than $60,000 (50 percent).

Career change continues to resonate

Rethinking their career path or improving their current one was also on the minds of Washingtonians. About half (54 percent) of the respondents said they have considered making a change because of the current economy and tougher job market. Two-in-five (42 percent) have considered returning to school, either to enhance their current career (28 percent) or to train for a new career (24 percent).

If no barriers existed for changing careers, 40 percent of Washingtonians said they would do it. Those with a high school education or less compared to respondents with at least some college education were more apt to change careers by a wide margin of 58 percent to 34 percent.

“After a rough few years, we've seen a slight improvement in the overall job market,” Swartz said. “This survey shows the importance of never taking your career for granted. It is critical to continually evaluate your circumstances, be prepared to adapt your career to a changing economy and enhance your skill set.

Top careers for stability

Industries and occupations related to health care, personal care and social assistance and construction are projected to have the fastest job growth between 2010 and 2020, according to a February report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The industries with the largest projected wage and salary employment growth between 2010-20, include:

• Offices of health practitioners

• Hospitals

• Home health-care services

• Nursing and residential care facilities

• Computer system design and related services

“Year after year, projections show that health care is and will continue to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.,” Swartz said.