The weak state of the U.S. job market has become old news, but the labor force is still trying to recover from an unprecedented economic downturn. Hiring will continue steadily in the manufacturing and service sectors in August—following national labor market trends—according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) survey for August 2012.
But a recent report by the Associated Press (AP) noted three years have passed since the Great Recession officially ended, and the vast majority of states have not returned to employment levels from before the downturn. As of June 2012, 43 states still had fewer jobs than they did when the recession began in late 2007, according to AP’s analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And while the U.S. labor force has added jobs each month since October 2010, the pace didn’t pick up as desired through the first half of 2012; preliminary BLS numbers show that the U.S. labor force grew by 902,000 jobs. That’s slightly behind the 965,000 jobs created in the first half of 2011.
What’s more, the slowdown has progressed through the first half of 2012. Employers added an average of 226,000 jobs in January through March of 2012, but just 75,000 a month during April through June 2012.
So what’s in store for the rest of 2012? It depends on whom you ask. Here are some noteworthy job market outlooks for the remainder of 2012:
- At its June 2012 meeting, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors forecasted the nation’s unemployment rate to range from 7.8 percent to 8.4 percent at the end of 2012.
- The National Association of Business Economics (NABE) expects average gains of 188,000 jobs per month by the end of 2012, which would put it slightly ahead of the current pace outlined by the BLS. Panelists from a May 2012 outlook survey said they expect unemployment to fall to 8 percent sometime in the fourth quarter of 2012. But in a separate NABE industry survey released in July 2012, only about 20 percent of respondents reported rising employment at their organizations, down from 39 percent in an April 2012 industry survey.
- A 2012 mid-year job forecast survey by employment services company CareerBuilder also calls for improvements in the second half of 2012. The survey showed that 44 percent of private-sector employers polled plan to hire full-time, permanent staff during the July through December 2012 time frame, an increase of 9 percent from the same period in 2011.
- However, nearly 9 in 10 (88 percent) executives polled in a recent survey by staffing services company Robert Half International said they anticipated no changes to payroll levels for the third quarter of 2012. Just 5 percent of those surveyed, which included C-level executives in human resources, finance, information, advertising and marketing, said they expect to add staff in the third quarter of 2012.
- In a third-quarter 2012 hiring outlook by staffing services firm ManpowerGroup, a net of only 15 percent of employers surveyed will add jobs during July through September 2012, but this quarterly survey marked the first time since 2008 that there were two consecutive quarters of positive employment outlooks in all 13 industries across all four U.S. regions that were surveyed.
“In our on-demand world, seeing long-term changes can be difficult,” said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup’s president of the Americas. “But it is important to keep in mind that employer confidence has been on an upward trajectory for three years. While slow and sometimes frustrating, job growth has proven to be sustainable, and the data shows a solid foundation is in place for continued progress.”
For more information, please visit SHRM Online’s Labor Market and Economic Data page.
Joseph Coombs is a workplace trends and forecasting specialist for SHRM.
SHRM Online Staffing Management Discipline