2Q hiring outlook mirrors prerecession numbers

In the first quarter, one-third of employers added full-time, permanent employees, which is on par with 2007, and marks the highest increase since the recession began, according to a survey by jobsite CareerBuilder.

These numbers are expected to continue as 30 percent of respondents say they plan to add new full-time, permanent staff in April through June. Still, 6 percent of respondents plan to downsize staffs, reflecting a similar number from last year. Fifty-eight percent of respondents anticipate no changes, and 6 percent remain undecided.  

"We have moved from an anemic job market to one that is stable and growing," says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "While still cautious, employers are feeling better about the state of the U.S. economy and the debt situation in Europe. Forty-one percent of companies reported their sales have increased over the last six months, which is helping to fuel greater confidence in hiring. The amount of job listings we're seeing for key categories on our site are similar to that of 2007. All indicators point to steady improvement in the job market in the second quarter and beyond."

Fifty-six percent of respondents say a candidate rejected a job offer from their organizations with 41 percent of those respondents attributing the rejection to their inabilities to offer the desired salary. Another 22 percent of respondents say they didn't make a job offer quickly enough, and the candidate already found employment. 

According to an earlier survey in December 2011, 24 percent of respondents planned to hire full-time, permanent employees during the first quarter of 2012, but 33 percent of respondents ended up hiring, which higher than what was first expected and up from 28 percent in the first quarter of 2011. While 9 percent of respondents reduced their work force numbers in the first quarter 2012, it represents a slight improvement from 10 percent last year. Another 57 percent of respondents say they did not cut full-time, permanent employees while 2 percent say they are undecided.   

Temporary hiring is also up. In fact, 37 percent of respondents say they hired contract or temporary workers in the first quarter, an increase from 29 percent in 2011, and 34 percent of respondents plan to hire contract or temporary workers in the second quarter, up from 26 percent last year. Twenty-four percent of respondents say they plan to move some contract or temporary staff into permanent positions in the second quarter, a jump from 17 percent last year. 

Despite the fact that 12.8 million people are still unemployed, many respondents report having trouble finding talent, the survey finds. This number is growing as 31 percent of respondents say they can’t qualified job prospects for open positions, which is up from 24 percent last year. 

"One of the major challenges the U.S. faces is being able to align the skill sets of the labor force with positions that are in high demand," Ferguson says. "There is a growing gap between high-skill job openings and available talent that has a larger impact on overall employment. Fifteen percent of employers reported that because they can't fill high-skill positions within their organizations they're not able to create lower-skilled positions that are tied to these roles."

Regarding salary, 31 percent of respondents expect no change in compensation levels in the second quarter compared to the same time last year, and 42 percent of respondents are preparing for increases of 3 percent or less. Another 17 percent of respondents expect their average changes to be between 4 and 10 percent while 3 percent of respondents project an increase of 11 percent or more. Only 3 percent of respondents anticipate cutting salaries. 

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