Bloomberg BNA Releases Fourth Quarter Employment Outlook Report

Employers’ hiring projections for the fall suggest no dramatic gains in job opportunities, but workers continue to enjoy fairly low risk of layoff or job loss, according to 271 employers responding to Bloomberg BNA’s employment survey for the fourth quarter of 2012. Since a period of substantial post-recession gains in 2010 and early 2011, workforce expansion plans have stalled, with little indication of further or sustained growth in employment prospects. However, current hiring prospects for nonmanagement workers are still considerably improved from just a few years ago, and reports of layoffs and imminent cutbacks have settled at their lowest levels since the recession’s onset in late 2007.
For all three employee groups covered by the survey, workforce expansion plans have exhibited mostly modest variations since early 2011, with little indication of any sustained trend in hiring prospects. Over the past eight quarters, for instance, the percentage of employers reporting workforce expansion plans has hovered in a five percentage-point range for both production/service workers (21 to 26 percent) and technical/professional employees (28 to 33 percent). The range has been slightly wider for office/clerical staff (12 to 19 percent).

Although recent Bloomberg BNA employment outlook surveys have yet to indicate robust employment opportunities, hiring prospects are still markedly better than they were just a few years ago. In addition, workforce cutbacks and reports of workers on layoff have fallen back near pre-recession levels. So while a post-recession hiring boom has yet to materialize, the threat of job loss and layoffs has dissipated substantially over the past several years.

Just 6 percent of responding organizations expect to reduce technical/professional employment levels in late 2012, fourth-quarter cuts in production/service staff are anticipated by 8 percent of employers and office/clerical cutbacks are forecasted by 7 percent of respondents.

Employers’ struggles with open positions may be extending beyond professional and technical jobs to production, service, and clerical openings. In July and August, nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of employers reported trouble filling production/service openings, up eight points from three months ago. Likewise, more employers had some difficulty finding qualified office/clerical staff (11 percent versus 5 percent). Technical/professional vacancies continue to pose the greatest challenges, as nearly half of all establishments (47 percent) reported problems finding suitable technicians and professionals this summer.

While recent hiring difficulties might simply reflect a lack of qualified applicants or increased competition for workers, those struggles also could indicate that employers have expanded job requirements for the few positions they are permitted to fill.

This survey is conducted quarterly with a panel of human resource executives representing organizations throughout the United States.

Full copies of the survey are available to working press. Please email msottong@bna.com.

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