Bloomberg BNA Survey Finds Little Indication of Imminent Hiring Boom

Arlington, Va., (December 6, 2012) - Hiring projections for early 2013 signal no dramatic change in employment prospects, with some indication of declining job opportunities for production and service employees, according to 291 employers responding to Bloomberg BNA's latest survey on the employment outlook. Job prospects have shown little sustained improvement since a period of substantial gains in 2010 and early 2011, and that trend appears likely to extend into 2013. On the positive side, reports of layoffs and planned workforce cutbacks continue to indicate low risk of job loss.

Hiring Projections

Hiring prospects remain strongest for technical and professional job candidates, but have leveled off since early 2011. Thirty-one percent of responding employers expect expansion in their technical and professional workforces during the first quarter of 2013, up just a percentage point from projections from the previous quarter.

Production and service workers could face somewhat diminished employment prospects early in the new year. Less than one-fifth of surveyed establishments (18 percent) anticipate production/service workforce growth next quarter, down from 23 percent three months ago and the smallest percentage reporting production/service expansion plans since the second quarter of 2010 (15 percent).

Employment prospects for office/clerical workers have exhibited very little movement over the past year. Fourteen percent of respondents expect an increase in their office/clerical staff levels in early 2013, virtually unchanged from projections for the fourth quarter (15 percent). 

Reports of workforce cutbacks and layoffs have fallen back around levels observed before the economic downturn. While recent Bloomberg BNA surveys have given little indication of an imminent spike in employment levels, those who currently hold jobs appear fairly secure.

Just 6 percent of the surveyed organizations plan to reduce technical/production staffs in early 2013. Nine percent forecast cuts in production/service staff levels, and the same percentage projected first-quarter reductions in office/clerical staff. During the depths of the recession, reports of planned cutbacks approached or exceeded 20 percent of responding employers.

Nine percent of responding establishments had production/service staff on layoff in October and November, and even fewer (7 percent) reported any office/clerical employees on inactive status. Layoff incidence remains lowest for technical and professional employees; just 6 percent of employers had any technicians or professionals on layoff this fall. In 2009-10, reports of workers on layoff ran at two to three times current levels.

Job Vacancies

Employers apparently experienced considerably less difficulty filling job vacancies this fall than during the summer, the Bloomberg BNA survey indicates. Just 16 percent of responding establishments reported trouble finding qualified candidates for production or service openings in October and November, down eight points from reports for the third quarter. A mere 6 percent of employers struggled to fill any office/clerical vacancies this autumn, compared with 11 percent of those reporting for July and August.

Technical/professional vacancies continues to pose the greatest challenge for recruiters, as 41 percent of responding HR professionals indicated problems finding qualified technicians and professionals in October and November. However, that figure is down from 47 percent of employers surveyed three months ago and the lowest percentage reporting hard-to-fill technical/professional vacancies since the third quarter of 2010 (37 percent).

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