Survey: Professional-Level Hiring Expected to Increase in First Quarter of 2012; Executives See Rise in Recruiting Challenges

Posted December 02, 2011 by

Employers expect to increase hiring for professional-level positions in the first quarter, but they have concerns about finding qualified candidates for these roles, a new Robert Half survey shows. A net 10 percent of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Professional Employment Report plan to add full-time staff in the first three months of the year, up three points from the fourth-quarter forecast. However, the number of respondents who report recruiting challenges also is on the rise: 67 percent of executives said it is at least somewhat challenging to find skilled employees today, up from 59 percent last quarter and 42 percent in the third quarter.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they are at least somewhat confident in their organizations’ ability to grow in the first quarter.

The survey’s highlights include:

  • -Sixteen percent of respondents anticipate hiring professional-level staff and 6 percent expect reductions in personnel. The resulting net 10 percent increase is up three points from the fourth-quarter forecast.
  • -Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they are having recruiting challenges, up eight points from the fourth quarter.
  • -The legal field is expected to see the strongest hiring activity, with a net 27 percent of lawyers planning to increase staff levels. The information technology (IT) and finance fields showed the largest net gains in projected hiring activity from the prior quarter.  In addition, the IT and finance fields also reported the greatest difficulty in finding skilled professionals, at 73 percent and 68 percent, respectively.
  • -Businesses in the West North Central states (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD) will be hiring most actively, with a net 15 percent of executives planning to add professional-level staff in the first quarter, research shows.
  • -A net 19 percent of respondents in the transportation sector said they expect to make staff additions.

“The U.S. unemployment rate for college-educated workers is roughly half the overall rate, and for many professional specialties it is even lower,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. Messmer pointed out that in the third quarter of 2011, the unemployment rates for financial analysts and computer network architects were less than 1 percent, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Brett Good, a senior district president with Robert Half International, added, “The common wisdom is that jobs are simple to fill in this market, but many employers are struggling to find the talent they need. Professionals with highly specialized skills are in short supply — particularly in the information technology and finance fields.”

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