Uncertainty Aside, Employers Look to Ramp up Hiring In 2019

U.S. businesses report strong hiring intentions, according to the latest “Employment Outlook Survey” by ManpowerGroup. Let's go inside the latest forecast and see which sectors and regions are in growth mode as veteran recruiter Drew Desky weighs in from Rand Thompson Consultants.

December 11, 2018 – U.S. employers are expecting hiring to pick up in the first quarter of 2019, with 23 percent of employers planning to add staff, according to the latest “Employment Outlook Survey,” released today by ManpowerGroup.

Employers in all U.S. regions and industry sectors said they are looking for headcount to grow.

The upbeat forecast indicates that the uncertain political climate continues to have little effect on employer confidence. Of the more than 11,500 U.S. employers surveyed, 71 percent said they expected to maintain their headcounts, with just five percent forecasting workforce reductions.

Taking seasonal variations into account, the net employment outlook for the first quarter was up 20 percent. This marked the 17th consecutive quarter with an outlook of plus-15 percent or stronger. Nationwide, hiring prospects were one percentage point stronger when compared with the same period last year.

Hiring by Sector

Employers in all 13 national industry sectors said they expected to grow staffing levels during the fourth quarter: transportation & utilities (+28 percent), leisure & hospitality (+27 percent), professional & business services (+25 percent), mining (+24 percent), wholesale & retail trade (+24 percent), construction (+23 percent), nondurable goods manufacturing (+20 percent), government (+19 percent), durable goods manufacturing (+19 percent), education & health services (+17 percent), financial activities (+17 percent), other services (+12 percent), information (+11 percent).

Hiring intentions were slightly stronger in seven national industry sectors quarter-over-quarter. Nondurable goods manufacturing sector employers nationally said they anticipate the strongest hiring pace in 14 years, while mining sector employers said they expect the strongest industry sector comparisons labor market in 10 years. In three of the sectors introduced in 2009, employers expected the strongest hiring pace across the U.S. since that date: education & health services, government and transportation & utilities. Hiring plans were also slightly stronger in the financial activities and wholesale & retail trade sectors.

In four nationwide industry sectors, employers reported relatively stable hiring intentions when compared with the previous quarter: leisure & hospitality, durable goods manufacturing, other services and professional & business services.

Hiring by Region

Employers in all four regions in the U.S. showed a positive outlook for the coming quarter. Employers in 22 percent of Midwest businesses surveyed expected to add to payrolls during the upcoming quarter, while five percent said they expect to trim payrolls and 72 percent anticipated no change. Employers in the Midwest leisure & hospitality sector reported considerably stronger hiring prospects in comparison with the prior quarter. The outlook for the wholesale & retail trade sector was moderately stronger, and outlooks improved slightly in four sectors: construction, nondurable goods manufacturing, other services and professional & business services.

During the next three months payroll gains were anticipated in 23 percent of the Northeast businesses surveyed. Six percent of Northeast employers said they were expecting to trim payrolls and 70 percent anticipated no change. Employers in five Northeast industry sectors reported relatively stable hiring plans in comparison with the final quarter of 2018: construction, financial activities, government, information and transportation & utilities.

Related: With Hiring in Full Swing, Job Seekers Remain in Control

Employers in 24 percent of the businesses surveyed in the South anticipated workforce gains during the January-to-March timeframe, while four percent expected a decrease in staffing levels and 72 percent expected no change. Construction sector employers in the South reported a moderate improvement in hiring prospects quarter-over-quarter. In five industry sectors in the region, employers reported slightly improved hiring intentions when compared with the previous quarter: education & health services, financial activities, government, durable goods manufacturing and nondurable goods manufacturing.

In the West, 22 percent of businesses surveyed expected to grow their workforces during the coming quarter, with four percent of employers saying they anticipated a decline in payrolls and 73 percent expected no change. Employers in the wholesale & retail trade sector in the West reported moderately stronger hiring prospects when compared with the final quarter of 2018. Slightly stronger hiring plans were reported in four sectors across the West: education & health services, government, information and transportation & utilities.

Global Outlook

ManpowerGroup interviewed over 60,000 employers across 44 countries and territories to forecast labor market activity in January-March 2019. All participants were asked: “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of March 2019 as compared to the current quarter?” The ManpowerGroup research for the first quarter of 2019 revealed that payroll gains were expected in 43 of 44 countries and territories in the period up to the end of March.

Related: 5 Employment Trends That Demand New Ways of Managing

Hiring intentions for the coming quarter were stronger in 16 of 44 countries and territories when compared with the prior quarter, weaker in 23 and unchanged in five. In a comparison with this time one year ago, outlooks improved in 21 countries and territories, declined in 20, and were unchanged in two. First-quarter hiring confidence was strongest in Japan, Taiwan, the U.S., Slovenia, Greece and Hong Kong, while employers reported the weakest hiring intentions in Argentina, Switzerland, Italy, Panama and Spain.

Jobs Report Points to Potential Uncertainty Ahead
The strong economy continues, but there are warning signs as we head into 2019 – among them: China, Brexit, tariffs and impeachment. Here’s the latest jobs report, with executive recruiters from Whitehouse Advisors and Garrett Search Partners weighing in with optimistic outlooks.

Job gains were expected for all 26 Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region countries in the survey during the first quarter of 2019. In comparison to last quarter, employers in eight countries reported stronger hiring prospects, but hiring plans weakened in 15. When compared with the same period last year, forecasts strengthened in 12 countries but declined in 13. The strongest EMEA labor markets in the coming quarter were anticipated in Slovenia and Greece, while Swiss employers reported the weakest hiring plans.

Related: Worker Confidence Level Approaching Record High

Employers in all eight Asia-Pacific countries and territories expected to add to payrolls during the next three months. When compared with the previous quarter, forecasts strengthened in four countries and territories but weakened in two. In comparison with last year at this time, employers in five countries and territories reported stronger hiring prospects, while weaker outlooks were reported in two. Japanese and Taiwanese employers reported the strongest hiring intentions across the region, and the weakest outlooks were reported in China and Singapore.

Payrolls were expected to increase across nine of the 10 Americas countries included in the survey during the January-March period, although employers in one–Argentina–expected their workforce to decrease in size. Hiring prospects strengthened in four Americas countries when compared with the final quarter of 2018, but weakened in six. In a comparison with the same period last year, outlooks improved in four countries but declined in five. The most optimistic first quarter hiring plans were reported in the U.S. and Mexico, while Argentinian and Panamanian employers reported the weakest country forecasts in the region.

Hiring Experts Weigh In

“Increased employer optimism tells us employers have jobs to fill, yet we know they are struggling to find the talent they need from production line workers to IT professionals,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America. “With so many U.S. organizations set to hire in an already tight labor market, skilled workers can call the shots. For some workers benefits including childcare facilities, free transportation, or the offer of certification and career progression are key,” she said. “We’ve seen large organizations increase wages and add new perks and benefits like unlimited paid-time-off to compete for talent.”

Related: Confidence in Economy Resulting in Bullish Hiring Projections

“Employers can increase their offer, yet ultimately there is a finite supply of skilled talent, unless we’re investing in development and giving employees the chance to upskill, move up and earn more,” she said. “That’s why we’re working with companies from transportation to high-tech IT to implement accelerated upskilling programs to help people learn skills to do the jobs open today and those created tomorrow.”

“As employers have generally been cautious on hiring permanent employees during the recovery after the global financial crisis, corporate hiring needs have outpaced hiring for several years, and most people we have spoken with feel stretched beyond their capacity at work,” said Drew Desky, managing partner of New York-based executive search firm Rand Thompson Consultants. “The expectation of increased hiring in the new year is consistent with resolving this situation, as employers remain concerned about retention, as well as growing revenues and improving client satisfaction.”

“We haven’t yet seen any effect of the recent stock market volatility on hiring plans,” Mr. Desky. “We will be watching this closely and staying close to our clients to help them navigate potentially choppier waters, especially among financial institutions and investment firms.”

Related: Economic Climate Creating Challenges for Recruiters

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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