North American workers are more financially stressed than they were a year ago, a new survey has found, with half tapping into emergency savings over the last year and a third are looking for extra jobs to boost their income.

The study, carried out by Ceridian and Western University’s Financial Wellness Lab of Canada, surveyed thousands of workers in the U.S. and Canada to look at how people are adapting to economic stressors like higher inflation and interest rates.

“Whether workers are highly stressed or comfortable about their financial situation, many are dipping into savings and planning to reduce debt,” Matt Davison, Western’s dean of science and director of the research lab, said in a written statement.

“This signals widespread financial insecurity across all demographics.”

The survey analyzed responses from people identified as stressed, unsettled or comfortable about their finances. Within the “stressed” category, 67 per cent of people with emergency savings said they had tapped into those accounts in 2022 to pay for necessities, while 54 per cent of respondents overall reported the same.

The study found 61 per cent of employed people were more stressed about their finances than they were a year ago, and 81 per cent said they planned to cut back on expenses like dining out, shopping and entertainment.

At 78 per cent, a majority of those surveyed said they were looking to increase their income next year, and 33 per cent said they planned to do that through a side gig or second job.

Davison said many people are looking for relief by asking for raises or promotions, but those solutions are “outside their control” and may not guarantee a “financial buffer.”

The results also showed that nearly a quarter of people spent an hour or more of their work time every day thinking about their personal finances. Researchers with the Financial Wellness Lab of Canada estimated that lost time as potentially amounting to US$664 billion in lost productivity, including $US50 billion in Canada.

“Financial stress is no longer just an individual’s problem – it’s an organizational roadblock that’s costing companies billions of dollars in lost productivity,” Seth Ross, a general manager with Ceridian and its Dayforce Wallet service, said in a written statement.


This survey was conducted online within the United States and Canada by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ceridian from October 3-6, 2022 among 4,232 U.S. and Canadian adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

The Financial Wellness Lab of Canada extrapolated the survey results to the total number of employed persons in each country. Government sources were used to determine the average hourly salary plus benefits for those in full time employment and to then derive the aggregate cost for employees focused on personal finances while on the job. Machine learning algorithms were used to group the results into the three clusters (Stressed, Unsettled, and Comfortable).