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Hiring Forecasts Optimistic for Second Quarter of 2013
All industries, U.S. regions report positive quarterly employment outlook

By Theresa Minton-Eversole  4/3/2013
Hiring optimism for the second quarter of 2013 prevails in two recently released employment forecasts.

Half of HR professionals are confident that the U.S. economy will add jobs in the second quarter of 2013, according to the newest Jobs Outlook Survey (JOS), released April 1 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Hiring decision-makers also reported a measured but optimistic approach to hiring plans for the second quarter in the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, released March 12, 2013, by ManpowerGroup.

The JOS report examines U.S. hiring and recruiting trends twice annually. It is based on a survey of more than 400 public- and private-sector human resource professionals who have a direct role in staffing decisions for their organizations, which represent small, medium and large U.S. for-profit and nonprofit entities from a variety of industries as well as government sectors.

Fifty percent of respondents reported having some level of confidence in the U.S. job market and expect job growth for the second quarter of 2013. That represents a modest increase from the fourth quarter of 2012, when 45 percent of respondents expressed some optimism about job growth.

In the second quarter of 2013, 44 percent of companies will be hiring, up from 35 percent in the second quarter of 2012. Among employer categories, medium-sized companies (those with 100 to 499 employees) will be the most likely to add jobs (47 percent) in the second quarter, JOS data show. In the first quarter of 2013, 49 percent of organizations added jobs, up from 40 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Another 11 percent decreased staffing levels in the first quarter of 2013, nearly unchanged from the 10 percent that shed jobs a year ago.

Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed by Manpower, 73 percent plan to maintain current staffing levels during the second quarter of 2013. Approximately 18 percent expect to add to their workforce during that period, while 5 percent expect to shrink their payroll. This is the smallest percentage of employers planning to reduce head count since the third quarter of 2000. Only 4 percent of employers indicated they are undecided about their hiring intentions.

“Quarter over quarter our data reports slow and steady hiring projections, which is good news compared with the hiring downturns we experienced several years ago,” said ManpowerGroup President Jonas Prising in a statement about the results. “The main priority for employers today should be to refine management methods to build winning teams so they have the right people in place when the economy takes off again.”

Industry, Regional Hiring

Employers have a positive jobs outlook in all 13 industry sectors included in the Manpower survey. When the industry sector data are compared quarter over quarter, organizations in the construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality sectors expect a considerable hiring increase; those in the mining, durable-goods manufacturing, and professional and business services sectors expect a moderate hiring increase. Employers in the other-services industry sector expect the hiring pace to pick up slightly, as well, Manpower reports.

Staffing levels are expected to remain relatively stable among employers in the information, financial activities, education and health services, and government sectors. However, the wholesale and retail trade sector predicts a slight decrease in the hiring pace, according to Manpower.

“As the economic tail winds of the housing, banking and auto industries continue to pick up, we are seeing a gradual acceleration in hiring, accompanied by fewer companies decreasing staff,” said Prising. “The considerable growth of the construction sector is a reflection of continued progress, and employers are responding to this as outside momentum gives them more confidence to push their plans forward.”

HR professionals’ optimism varies across U.S. regions in SHRM’s latest JOS. Respondents from the Northeast are the most confident (54 percent); those from the Midwest have the least faith in the job market (47 percent).

Manpower also reports a positive net employment outlook in all U.S. regions. When seasonal variations are removed from the data, quarter-over-quarter plans to add employees remain essentially unchanged among employers in the Northeast, Midwest and South, while employers in the West expect hiring to decrease slightly.

Compared with a year ago, employers in all regions predict a relatively stable hiring environment for the second quarter of 2013. Employers in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia report positive hiring plans. In addition, employers in all Metropolitan Statistical Areas report positive hiring plans, with net employment outlooks ranging from +3 percent to +23 percent.

Despite the payroll growth, the rolls of part-time workers and long-term unemployed have remained high, SHRM reports. Throughout 2012 and early 2013 more than 8 million people have been employed part time for “economic reasons,” either because their hours have been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On any given month, close to 5 million people are considered “long-term unemployed,” or without work for 27 weeks or more, the bureau reports.

Most economists and labor market observers are not forecasting major improvements in the U.S. economy and the job market for the remainder of 2013 but predict a “slow and steady” progression for both.

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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