Q4 job outlook mirrors pre-recession hiring

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By Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder

As we head into the last few months of the year, a time when companies are often the most cautious with hiring plans, signs are pointing to a positive quarter for job seekers. According to CareerBuilder’s latest job forecast, 26 percent of employers surveyed plan to add full-time, permanent staff in the next three months, up five percentage points from 2011 and closely mirroring pre-recession estimates of 27 percent.

This is the most optimistic fourth quarter projection since 2007, and since companies are historically more conservative in their hiring estimates than actual hiring activity, these figures could end up even higher. Throughout the first three quarters of 2012, the country has experienced slow but steady job growth, and these numbers show that we’re laying a solid foundation for stronger job creation in 2013.  

Q3 hiring up from 2011
Looking back at Q3, hiring activity improved from a year prior. Thirty-two percent of companies added full-time, permanent employees, up from 26 percent in 2011. Twelve percent decreased headcount, on par with last year (11 percent). Fifty-six percent made no change to employee levels.

Temporary hiring continues to increase
One indication that economic uncertainty still exists among employers is the continued move toward temporary hiring. Temporary employees are accounting for a larger proportion of the employment mix, with 38 percent of employers hiring temporary or contract workers in Q3, up from 32 percent last year. 

We’ll see this trend continue in Q4, as 33 percent plan to hire temporary workers throughout the next few months. Although, this may partially reflect hiring needs for the upcoming holiday season. What’s more, some companies that weren’t ready to take on permanent employees earlier in the year may do so in the fourth quarter; 23 percent are planning to transition some contract or temporary staff into permanent employees in Q4, up from 17 percent last year.

Hiring by company size, region
Hiring is up from last year among companies of all sizes, increasing by at least four percentage points year-over-year across the board. The biggest companies – those with 500-plus employees – plan to hire the most workers; 34 percent expect to add full-time headcount in Q4, up from 27 percent last year. Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are the most conservative, with 16 percent anticipating the addition of employees in the fourth quarter. However, this number is up from 12 percent last year.

The latest regional employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the West continues to record the highest regional unemployment rate, at 9.4 percent in August, but this number is a marked decrease from 10.4 percent a year prior. This continued job creation is reflected in CareerBuilder’s forecast, with 31 percent of employers in the West planning to add full-time, permanent staff in Q4, more than any other region.

Election effect
As we head into the final months of 2012, there are still many variables, including the presidential election and the European debt crisis, which can potentially change the course of the job market. In fact, 22 percent of employers said the outcome of the U.S. presidential election will likely impact their pace of hiring in 2013, while 48 percent said it will have no impact and 30 percent are uncertain.

Job turnover increasing as worker confidence grows
Perhaps one of the strongest indications of an improving economy is the growth of consumer confidence. Workers are becoming more confident that jobs are available, and they’re pursuing other opportunities. Eighteen percent of hiring managers reported that top performers left their organizations in the third quarter, while 26 percent of workers plan to change jobs in the next 12 months. The top positions companies cite as having the most turnover include sales representatives, administrative assistants, information-technology managers/network administrators, engineers and customer-service representatives.

In addition, workers are being more selective about the job offers they accept. Half of employers who extended a job offer in the past year reported that a candidate rejected the offer, primarily attributed to candidates taking another offer or the company not meeting their desired salary. 

With job seekers feeling more confident in their job searches and negotiations, and employers looking to hire at pre-recession levels, the final quarter of 2012 looks to be a step in the right direction for workers and businesses alike.

Matt Ferguson is the CEO of CareerBuilder.

One Comment
  1. The fourth quarter’s predicted 26 percent increase is certain to have job seekers feeling confident about their job search. As we’re taking a step in the right direction, many job seekers might feel the need to slow their search, while other employees might decide to look for better salaried positions. It’s important to use this confidence in positive ways and not get too hasty regarding the situation at hand. Job seekers should still be searching just as hard for a position.

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