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Report: Hiring prospects to improve in Q2

March 18 2014

Employers' hiring projections for the second quarter suggest marked gains in hiring prospects for all three non-management employee groups covered by the Bloomberg BNA's latest employment outlook survey. Additionally, layoff incidence and imminent reductions-in-force are at or near their lowest levels since the Great Recession, according to the survey.

On the hiring front, 33 percent of the surveyed employers anticipate expanding their technical/professional workforces in the second quarter — up from projections of 27 percent for first three months of this year and 29 percent for the second quarter of 2013, and the strongest technical/professional job prospects since the spring of 2011.

Recent trends in production/service hiring prospects have largely mirrored those observed for technical/professional workers — albeit with a bit more volatility — and that pattern will extend through the second quarter of 2014, according to the report. Twenty-five percent of responding HR professionals expect to hire additional service or production staff in the spring, up six points from last quarter, up five points from a year ago and the largest percentage projecting production/service workforce growth in two years.

Office/clerical job prospects apparently have reversed field, following a sharp drop in the second half of 2013. Eighteen percent of the surveyed organizations plan to expand their clerical or administrative ranks in the second quarter, up sharply from projections of 12 percent for the previous two quarters to roughly the level of 19 percent recorded a year ago.

For each of the three employee classifications covered by the survey, layoff incidence fell to its lowest level in about six years. Just 2 percent of responding employers had any technical or professional workers on layoff in January and February, down markedly from both 9 percent in the previous quarter and 7 percent a year earlier, and the smallest percentage of respondents reporting technical/professional staff on inactive status since mid-2008. Similarly, 2 percent of firms with office/clerical workers reported workers on layoff, its lowest point since the recession's onset. Production/service employees were on layoff at 6 percent of the surveyed establishments, the lowest figure since late 2007.

Only 3 percent of employers predicted second-quarter cuts in their production/service and 6 percent predicted cuts in their office/clerical staff levels, down six points and seven points, respectively, from projections for the first quarter; both figures are post-recession lows. Five percent expect to eliminate technical/professional jobs in April and May; planned cuts in technical/professional staff have not reached double digits in more than three years.

Technical and professional job vacancies continue to pose the greatest challenge for employers, as 48 percent of the responding HR professionals reported difficulty filling technical/professional positions in January and February. Clerical openings at 5 percent and production/service vacancies at 15 percent remain far less problematic.

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