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U.S. Mid-Year Job Forecasts Points to Better Hiring in Second Half of 2012

July 6, 2012 — While the jobs recovery continues to lag that of previous recessions, the outlook for the second half of 2012 shows continued improvement over 2011. 44% of private-sector employers reported plans to hire full-time, permanent staff from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2012 — an increase of 9 percentage points over the same period last year.

In last year's forecast, the number of companies planning to hire full-time permanent employees (35%) increased 7 percentage points over 2010. The nationwide survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included 2,298 hiring managers and HR professionals across industries and company sizes.

"The rate of job creation has been slower than what we would have expected at this point in the recovery, but the market is stable," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Two years ago, the hiring activity in the U.S. was driven primarily by large employers recruiting in metropolitan areas for a handful of industries or job functions. Today, we see job listings in all industries, market sizes and company sizes. The outlook for the remainder of the year is better than 2011, but it will follow the same pattern of steady progress rather than a survey in job growth. Employers will remain careful as they assess barriers and opportunities for growth in the economy and their own businesses."

Employers plan to add a mix of new employees in the next six months, with each category trending up from last year:

  • Hiring full-time, permanent employees: 44%, up from 35% in 2011
  • Hiring part-time employees: 21%, up from 15% in 2011
  • Hiring contract or temporary employees: 21%, up from 12% in 2011.

Hiring among small businesses is gradually gaining ground. However, companies with 50 or fewer employees continue to be more cautious than other segments and reported little change in recruitment plans from last year:

  • 50 or fewer employees: 21% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 20% in 2011.
  • 250 or fewer employees: 31% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 26% in 2011.
  • 500 or fewer employees: 34% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 27% in 2011.

Comparing regions, the West is the most optimistic in terms of hiring plans for July through December and reported the highest year-over-year increase for adding full-time, permanent staff:

  • West: 47% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 35% in 2011.
  • South: 45% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 38% in 2011.
  • Northeast: 44% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 34% in 2011.
  • Midwest: 40% hiring full-time, permanent employees, up from 32% in 2011.

The top functional areas for which businesses plan to hire first are those directly affecting revenue and innovation. Customer service remains the No. 1 spot for recruitment, with IT and sales rounding out the top three:

  • Customer service: 24%
  • Information technology: 22%
  • Sales: 21%
  • Administrative: 16%
  • Business development: 13%
  • Accounting/finance: 12%
  • Marketing: 11%.

More employers also are reporting that their organizations have created entirely new job functions within their organizations to respond to evolving business demands. When asked if their organizations currently have positions that didn’t exist in their firms five years ago, employers pointed to the following:

  • Positions tied to social media: 16%
  • Positions tied to storing and managing data: 15%
  • Positions tied to cyber security: 12%
  • Positions tied to financial regulation: 10%
  • Positions tied to promoting diversity inside and outside the organization: 9%
  • Positions tied to green energy and the environment: 8%
  • Positions tied to global relations: 8%.

34% of employers added full-time, permanent headcount in the second quarter, up from 29% last year and 33% last quarter. 9% decreased headcount while 56% made no changes to staff levels and 1% were unsure.

Looking ahead, 30% of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the third quarter, up from 26% last year. Given that employers historically have been more conservative in estimates than actual hiring activity, the number may come in higher at quarter end. 7% expect to downsize staffs, down from 8% last year. 58% anticipate no changes to headcount, while 5% are undecided.

Workers are feeling better about their job prospects, with 27% stating they are likely to leave their current jobs in the next 12 months, up slightly from 26% last year. As the job market improves and employee turnover rates increase, the competition for in-demand talent is getting more intense. 39% of employers are concerned that top talent will leave their organizations, up from 35% last year. 21% reported they lost top performers in the second quarter, up from 18% last year and 19% last quarter.

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