With unemployment near record lows, many companies are working harder to keep their employees happy -- and the result has been a continued rise in worker confidence, according to a new survey.

The survey, which polled 9,400 workers in 18 countries, found that 81.1% of U.S. workers do not think they will be laid off during the next year, up from 76.2% in November 2005. Thirteen of the 18 countries saw confidence increases, with Norway scoring the highest at 96.6%, according to Right Management, a Philadelphia-based global consulting firm, which has conducted the biannual survey for the past three years.

"Six months ago, when we last conducted this national survey, Americans were reeling from the devastating news about Hurricane Katrina," Eileen Javers, global leader of Right Management's transition practice, said in a statement. "That concern resulted in worker pessimism. Today, American workers are in a different place. Not only are they confident about hanging on to their current jobs, they are much more optimistic about the outlook for the unemployment rate."

Six months ago, 45% of American workers thought it was "very likely" that the unemployment rate would rise in the coming year. Today, that number has dropped to 30%. Unemployment stood at 4.7% in April.

"We're rapidly shifting back into a candidates' market," said Mike Foster, chairman of the Human Capital Institute, an employment research group based in Washington. According to Foster, most employers are seeing a talent shortage reminiscent of the late 1990s and are trying to retain their employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of American workers over the age of 16 who are discouraged with their job prospects in April was 381,000, as compared to 404,000 in November 2005.

"Barring some economic tragedy over the net several years, the feeling globally is that we're in an expansion," said Foster.