Heading into 2014, U.S companies are the most bullish they’ve been about first-quarter hiring in six years, according to a new survey. The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey shows that 17% of employers plan to increase staff levels in the first quarter, while 73% plan to maintain current levels and 7% plan to decrease payrolls. Given those numbers, the net employment outlook for the quarter is, when seasonally-adjusted, +13%. That’s the best reading for a year’s opening quarter since 2008. "Employers remain optimistic and continue to gradually improve their hiring projections despite the uneven economic recovery and other global and domestic influences," says Jonas Prising, president of ManpowerGroup, a workforce solutions company.
Based on input from 18,000 employers in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, the survey indicates that hiring plans are strong across sectors. The leisure/hospitality industry has the most ambitious hiring plans, while the wholesale/retail and professional/business services are nearly as optimistic that they’ll swell employee rosters. Only transportation and utilities companies forecast a slight decrease in the pace of hiring. "We're starting to see talent strategy match the importance of business strategy as individuals with the right skills and experience become harder to find,” says Prising. “Today, almost every major business decision focuses on knowing how to access, mobilize and optimize workforces to remain competitive."
While first-quarter outlooks remain relatively stable across all regions, there was some variance among different states and metropolitan areas. North Dakota employers indicated the strongest net employment outlook – +17% while Montana registered a negative. Meanwhile, Deltona, FL. was the metropolitan statistical area with the most positive outlook (+24%).
Despite the nationally positive trend, Prising noted: "For widespread employment growth to occur, we will need to see hiring intentions increase at a much faster pace."