HR professionals have more faith in the U.S. labor market than they did six months ago, and more than half believe that the economy will add jobs in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the newest Jobs Outlook Survey (JOS) by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). But 66 percent of all organizations are still experiencing difficulty recruiting for specific vacancies, compared with 52 percent in 2012, according to industry-specific data from SHRM’s Ongoing Impact of the Recession Poll.
The JOS report examines U.S. hiring and recruiting trends twice annually and is based on responses from more than 400 public- and private-sector human resource professionals who have a direct role in their company’s staffing decisions. Respondents represent small, midsize and large for-profit and nonprofit U.S. companies as well as government entities.
Fifty-five percent of JOS respondents have some level of confidence in the U.S. job market for the fourth quarter of 2013 and expect job growth—a slight increase from the second quarter of 2013, when 50 percent of those polled expressed optimism about job creation. But many employers are holding the line on hiring at a time when economic growth has been steady but not substantial. More than half of HR professionals surveyed said their organization will keep staffing levels flat during the fourth quarter of 2013; only 35 percent said they will be hiring in this quarter—down from 44 percent in the second quarter of 2013 but up slightly from 32 percent a year ago.
Key findings from Q4 2013 (October-December)
Nineteen percent of JOS survey respondents said they expect job cuts in the U.S. labor force, down from 25 percent in the second quarter and 28 percent one year ago.
And federal data indicate that the labor force has made solid gains. Employers added an average of 189,000 jobs each month from July 2012 through July 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That growth rate is generally viewed as sufficient to keep up with increases in the worker population but not high enough to truly drive down the unemployment rate.
Weakened demand continues to be the main obstacle to widespread job growth in the U.S. labor market; however, other SHRM data show that many employers want to add jobs but cannot find properly skilled candidates. Forty-three percent of respondents said the workers they had the most difficulty hiring in the third quarter of 2013 were salaried individual contributors and professionals such as analysts, nurses and engineers. Another 21 percent had difficulty finding skilled laborers, such as technicians and mechanics.
“The main reason for these challenges is a skills gap in the employee-candidate pool,” explained Evren Esen, manager of SHRM’s Survey Research Center, in a statement released about its postrecession poll. “Prospective employers have doubts about applicants and their ability to perform the job’s required duties, particularly when the jobs require new and different skill sets than before.”
When organizations that reported recruiting difficulties were asked what basic skills and knowledge job applicants lacked, respondents from all industries cited writing in English (55 percent), mathematics (38 percent), reading comprehension (31 percent) and spoken English (29 percent) at the top of the list. In addition, a majority of respondents (45 percent to 78 percent) across all industries reported having a hard time recruiting candidates for completely new positions or those that require different skill sets.
Currently, the high-tech, manufacturing, construction, mining, and oil and gas industries are encountering the highest levels of hiring challenges.
This is the third year that SHRM has conducted the survey, which examines how the economic recession has affected U.S. employers, specifically those in finance, health, manufacturing, high-tech, professional services, construction, mining, and oil and gas, as well as federal, state and local governments. The Ongoing Impact of the Recession Poll surveyed more than 3,400 randomly selected SHRM members in eight industries during the early fall of 2012. For more surveys/poll findings, visit shrm.org/surveys.
Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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