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Beige Book: Hiring steady in some district, up in others

July 18 2013

Hiring held steady or increased at a measured pace in most districts, with some contacts noting reluctance to hire permanent or full-time workers, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report released Wednesday.

Contacts in the Philadelphia, Richmond, and Chicago districts were cautious or reluctant to hire permanent or full-time staff, and the Richmond and Chicago districts noted relatively stronger demand for part-time workers.

Transportation contacts in the Cleveland, Atlanta, and Kansas City Districts noted some difficulty finding qualified drivers. Contacts in the New York and Richmond districts reported high demand for technology workers, as did the San Francisco district, where software developers were in high demand.

In the Boston district, most businesses are holding employment steady and the only firms in the manufacturing sector that are significantly hiring are rapidly growing companies in the technology and life science areas.

In the New York district, labor market conditions continue to improve gradually, and businesses have become more willing to negotiate on salary. One contact notes increasing difficulty in finding candidates with specific skill sets — especially for technology workers — and also finds companies becoming less reluctant to negotiate on salaries. Manufacturing contacts report a modest increase in staffing levels and some pickup in business activity but do not expect to hire additional workers through the second half of 2013.

In the Philadelphia district, staffing services appear to have resumed a modest rate of growth this period after a small surge last period. A staffing firm reported a slight sag in billable hours for June following strong growth through May year to date. Contacts offer mixed reports on their ability to attract qualified workers.

Hiring picked up in manufacturing and residential construction in the Cleveland district. Staffing-firm representatives reported that the number of job openings and placements was fairly steady, with vacancies found primarily in healthcare and manufacturing. Home builders reported moderate hiring, and general contractors are concerned about the availability of qualified subcontractors if demand in the construction sector begins growing at a robust pace.

Temp hiring picked up in the Richmond district’s labor markets, although many firms were reluctant to hire permanent workers. Employment rose in several industries, including home repair and construction, hotels, and medical software.

Employment growth for the Atlanta district was modest. Alabama continued to see hiring in hospitality services — especially in accommodation and food services — while Louisiana added jobs in construction, education and healthcare.

In the Chicago district, labor market conditions continued to improve slowly. Demand for skilled workers remained relatively stronger, particularly for healthcare, information technology, engineering and other technical occupations. Manufacturing contacts, however, were generally more cautious in their hiring plans. Several retailers reported that the Affordable Care Act would lead to more part-time and temporary versus full-time hiring.

In the St. Louis district, firms in automobile, automobile parts, lumber, bakery, petroleum refining and firearm manufacturing plan to hire new employees but firms that manufacture boats, housewares, turbines and medical equipment plan to lay off workers. Firms in television, prescription benefits management, electronics retail, residential care, utility, consulting and automobile sales services reported new hiring and expansion plans in St. Louis district states. However, firms in transportation, financial, food wholesale, healthcare and security services plan to lay off employees.

Labor shortages ticked up in the Kansas City district. Firms reported strong demand for long haul drivers, delivery drivers, skilled auto technicians and hotel housekeeping staff.

Employment held steady at most responding firms in the Dallas district, although there were more reports of hiring than at the time of the last report. Retailers reported nominal employment increases and hiring was noted by some primary metals and cement manufacturers. Accounting and legal firms continued to add workers in selected business areas. Difficulty finding qualified workers became more widespread, with scattered reports among accounting, finance, single-family construction, auto sales, and primary metals manufacturing firms, as well as from retailers in the Eagle Ford Shale area.

In the San Francisco district, slack in the labor market held back wage gains in most sectors, occupations and regions. However, firms in various industries continued to compete vigorously for a limited pool of qualified workers to fill certain technical positions, spurring significant wage growth for occupations such as software developers.

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