In getting America back to work, the bottom line has been and will continue to be slow and steady growth. Recovery has been gradual since mid-2009, and it will persist in this way over the next year.
But that doesn’t mean 2012 won’t be positive for the job market.
Each year, CareerBuilder asks employers about their hiring plans for the next 12 months. This year, we polled more than 3,000 hiring managers. Of those polled, 23 percent plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, while 16 percent plan to cut back staff levels. While these numbers are about even with employers’ 2011 predictions, they’re a marked improvement from recent years past. For example, at the end of 2008, just 14 percent of employers planned to hire new employees in 2009, while 16 percent planned to cut staff levels.
There’s also a good chance that hiring in 2012 will be better than employers’ predictions.
Historically, companies have been reserved in predicting hiring needs. Follow-up surveys done by CareerBuilder throughout the year typically find that employers hire more and downsize less than initially foreseen.
Small business shows promise
Additional hope for the 2012 job market comes from an uptick in the number of small businesses that plan to hire next year. Sixteen percent of companies with 50 or fewer employees plan to bring on additional full-time staff next year, a 2 percent jump over 2011. Better still, 20 percent of companies with fewer than 250 employees and 21 percent of companies with fewer than 500 employees also reported plans to add staff next year. Both are increases over 2011 forecasts.
Small businesses provide about half of the private-sector jobs in the U.S. and have accounted for about 65 percent of the total job creation in the past two decades, so much of the hope for the job market rests in the hands of these companies.
Job-market trends for 2012
A number of trends emerged from the survey data that will affect the labor market throughout 2012. Among them:
1. Workers will seek new opportunities: As the economy improves, workers will begin looking for better job opportunities. Thirty-four percent of employers surveyed said that voluntary turnover was higher at their organizations in 2011 than in 2010, and 43 percent are concerned that it will continue to rise in 2012.
2. Employers will ramp up efforts to keep their current employees and attract new ones: Perhaps sparked by higher turnover in the past year, companies are willing to spend more money in 2012 to keep their staff; 62 percent of employers reported plans to increase employee compensation next year. The payouts will also be extended to new hires; 32 percent of companies plan to increase starting salary offers to new workers.
Not surprisingly, the jobs that are most likely to command a raise next year are those that affect the bottom line. The areas in which employers said they’d most likely offer raises include sales, information technology, engineering and business development, in that order.
3. The recovery will continue to be uneven: Certain industries, job functions and geographic areas will recover faster than others. For example, employers need highly skilled workers, so jobs in engineering and IT will be plentiful in the coming year. Similarly, more employers in the West reported plans to hire in 2012 than did employers in the Northeast, Midwest and South.
4. Employers will try to close the skills gap: The skills gap — a hot topic in recruiting in 2011 — will continue to be an issue in 2012. In order to meet their growing need for employees in high-skills areas, 38 percent of employers will provide workers and new hires with on-the-job training.
5. Employers will place greater emphasis on diversity: Employers will continue to make a concerted effort to recruit Hispanic, African-American, bilingual and female employees. Twenty-nine percent of employers said they’d focus on workforce diversity in 2012. Twenty percent said they’d be recruiting African-American and Hispanic workers, while the same number reported plans to recruit women. Forty-four percent plan to concentrate on hiring more bilingual employees.
Matt Ferguson is the CEO of CareerBuilder.