U.S. Employers Reveal Strongest Early-Year Hiring Plans Since 2001

By Roy Maurer

Companies in the United States reported the strongest first-quarter hiring outlook since 2001, according to Manpower Group's latest employment forecast for 2018.

The survey of over 11,500 U.S. employers found that 21 percent plan to increase staff in the first quarter, 5 percent plan to decrease staff and the majority expect no change. That results in a net employment outlook of 16 percent and rises to 19 percent when seasonally adjusted, marking the 14th consecutive quarter with an outlook of 15 percent or above. Manpower's net employment outlook is figured by subtracting the percentage of employers expecting a decrease in hiring from the percentage of employers planning an increase in hiring activity.

Current or projected business success is driving the optimism, according to a 2017 survey of 1,000 HR leaders conducted by Censuswide for global search engine Indeed. Over half (56 percent) of employers in that survey who projected to hire more in 2018 than they did in 2017 said they are hiring to support business growth, while 31 percent are hiring for a specific skill and only 13 percent are replacing lost staff.

Employers in all industry sectors surveyed by Manpower reported positive hiring plans, with the leisure and hospitality sector (28 percent) leading all others. Job opportunities in transportation and utilities (26 percent) are the most robust since the survey started in 1982, and employers in construction (18 percent) and manufacturing (19 percent) are reporting their strongest hiring plans in more than a decade.

"We're seeing a renaissance in industries like construction and manufacturing in the U.S.," said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. "These are not the jobs of the past—many are highly skilled roles. Strong hiring intentions tell us employers have positions to fill, yet we know they're struggling to find people with the right skills to fill them."

She added that technological disruption will touch all industries sooner or later and employers should embrace the change and invest in training their workers.

All U.S. regions reported positive first-quarter hiring plans in both surveys, with employers in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Utah forecasting the strongest net employment outlooks in the Manpower report. Of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, the strongest job prospects are expected—in descending order—in Cape Coral, Fla.; Ogden, Utah; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Los Angeles; Phoenix; and Charlotte, N.C., according to Manpower.

Employer hiring confidence is also forecast to be strong globally. Of the nearly 59,000 employers interviewed across the globe by Manpower, organizations anticipate increasing staffing levels in 41 out of 43 countries and territories. The United States ranked among the strongest outlooks for hiring among the countries surveyed. Other countries with strong hiring plans include India, Japan and Taiwan, while employer confidence in the United Kingdom dropped to its weakest level since 2012, possibly as a result of the uncertainty over Brexit, the U.K.'s withdrawal from the European Union.

Entry-Level Hiring Difficulty Expected

More than 40 percent of employers in the Indeed survey said they worry they won't be able to find the talent with the skills they need. "While a lot of the conversation surrounding today's talent shortages is focused on the need to find highly skilled workers, the truth is that this issue impacts hiring at all levels," said Kevin Walker, senior director of field marketing at Indeed. "In fact, 41 percent of companies say their entry-level positions are hardest to fill."

Hiring for entry-level jobs is projected to be the toughest challenge for 55 percent of retailers and 52 percent of health care companies, according to Indeed.

Walker believes one reason for that difficulty lies with the lack of flexibility afforded recruiters "to sweeten the pot with additional money, better perks and stronger incentives" like they do when it comes to higher-level positions. "But the difficulty in attracting these candidates may be a sign that it's time for companies to shift some of their incentives from experienced job seekers to the fresh talent that keeps businesses running," he said.

The difficulty in finding entry-level talent could also lie with an organization's job postings. "Are you really hiring for entry-level jobs, or are you asking for one or two years' experience?" Walker asked. "Frequently on Indeed we see employers listing jobs as entry level when in fact they are asking for one or two years' experience. If you can't find that experience, it may be time to switch your focus to core competencies and transferable skills, or consider internships or other indicators of effort."


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