"If you're not afraid of being laid off, you're going to spend more of your money," said Drew Matus, an economist at UBS.
The General Social Survey has been conducted roughly every two years since 1972. The survey is a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago, with primary funding from the National Science Foundation.
From mid-March through September last year, 1,975 adults were asked about their financial situation and their feelings about the job market. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 2.2 percentage points. The results were only recently made available.
The survey found that confidence in the economy varied by education. Those with college degrees felt more job security than those with less education. And since the recession ended in June 2009, Americans with a college education have reported greater improvement in confidence than have those with high school degrees or less.
Only 6 percent of college-educated Americans said in 2012 that it was somewhat or very likely that they'd lose their job. That was down from 10 percent in 2010.
Those with high school degrees were also more confident in 2012: Twelve percent of this group feared losing their job, down from 19 percent two years earlier.
But Americans with less than a high school degree reported little change: 26 percent felt it was somewhat or very likely they would be laid off in 2012, about on par with the 29 percent who felt so in 2010.
On whether it would be somewhat or very easy to find another job, 59 percent of those with college degrees said so, up from 52 percent in 2010. Among high school graduates, that figure rose to 53 percent last year from 43 percent in 2010.
Those without a high school degree still lack confidence: Only 40 percent said it would be somewhat or very easy to find new work, essentially unchanged from the 41 percent who said so in 2010.