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Professional-Level Hiring Expected To Increase in First Quarter

Professional-Level Hiring Expected To Increase in First Quarter

Robert Half Survey: Executives See Rise in Recruiting Challenges

Employers expect to increase hiring for professional-level positions in the first quarter, but they have concerns about finding qualified candidates for these roles, a new Robert Half survey shows. A net 10 percent of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Professional Employment Report plan to add full-time staff in the first three months of the year, up three points from the fourth-quarter forecast. However, the number of respondents who report recruiting challenges also is on the rise: 67 percent of executives said it is at least somewhat challenging to find skilled employees today, up from 59 percent last quarter and 42 percent in the third quarter.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they are at least somewhat confident in their organizations' ability to grow in the first quarter.

The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 C-level executives and other leaders from a variety of fields throughout the United States who are asked about their hiring plans and general level of optimism for the upcoming quarter. Survey respondents include more than 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs) 1,400 chief information officers (CIOs) 500 senior human resources managers 100 lawyers at law firms and 100 corporate lawyers and 125 advertising executives and 375 marketing executives, all of whom have hiring authority. The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is the first quarterly executive survey of its size and scope to concentrate exclusively on professional-level hiring.

Key Findings

Sixteen percent of respondents anticipate hiring professional-level staff and 6 percent expect reductions in personnel. The resulting net 10 percent increase is up three points from the fourth-quarter forecast.

Sixty-seven percent of survey respondents said they are having recruiting challenges, up eight points from the fourth quarter.

The legal field is expected to see the strongest hiring activity, with a net 27 percent of lawyers planning to increase staff levels. The information technology (IT) and finance fields showed the largest net gains in projected hiring activity from the prior quarter.

Businesses in the West North Central[1] states will be hiring most actively, with a net 15 percent of executives planning to add professional-level staff in the first quarter, research shows.

A net 19 percent of respondents in the transportation sector said they expect to make staff additions.

 

Hiring Expectations: By Profession

Increase

Decrease

Net Increase

Total

16%

6%

10%

Accounting and finance

20%

11%

9%

Advertising and marketing

18%

4%

14%

Human resources

11%

3%

8%

Information technology

20%

10%

10%

Legal

31%

4%

27%

Sales and business development

15%

4%

11%

 

Executives Reporting Recruiting Challenges: All Professions

Quarter

Executives Citing
Recruiting Challenges

1Q12

67%

4Q11

59%

3Q11

42%

2Q11

37%

1Q11

29%

"The U.S. unemployment rate for college-educated workers is roughly half the overall rate, and for many professional specialties it is even lower," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. Messmer pointed out that in the third quarter of 2011, the unemployment rates for financial analysts and computer network architects were less than 1 percent, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Brett Good, a senior district president with Robert Half International, added, "The common wisdom is that jobs are simple to fill in this market, but many employers are struggling to find the talent they need. Professionals with highly specialized skills are in short supply -- particularly in the information technology and finance fields."

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Region

Respondents in the West North Central states anticipate the strongest hiring activity in the first quarter, with a net 15 percent of executives planning to add staff. "Healthcare, manufacturing and financial services firms are responsible for much of the hiring activity in the West North Central region," Messmer noted. "Businesses in these fields seek accounting operations professionals, customer service representatives, web developers and IT systems administrators, among other roles."

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Industry

First-quarter professional-level hiring is anticipated to be strongest in the transportation sector, where a net 19 percent of respondents said they expect to make staff additions. A net 14 percent of executives in both the wholesale and construction industries also indicated they will hire during the quarter.

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Profession

While the legal profession maintained its top spot in the survey with a net 27 percent of lawyers planning to hire, IT and finance showed the largest sequential gains, each yielding net increases in hiring activity that are up four points from the fourth-quarter survey.

The IT and finance fields also reported the greatest difficulty in finding skilled professionals, at 73 percent and 68 percent, respectively.  

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