HR Feeling Good About Hiring Outlook

HR professionals’ optimism about the U.S. job market hits a five-year high.

By Jen Schramm Oct 23, 2014


1114-Cover.gifDespite mixed economic signals, HR professionals are feeling more optimistic about the U.S. labor market than they have in a long time. According to the results of the newest Jobs Outlook Survey (JOS) released in October by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “HR professionals have their highest level of faith in the U.S. labor market in more than five years, and more than two in five said their organizations would add jobs in the second half of 2014.”

A total of 64 percent of the 424 HR professionals surveyed in August said they had some level of confidence in the U.S. job market in the second half of 2014 and expected job growth. Fifty percent were somewhat optimistic, and another 14 percent were very optimistic.

Forty-two percent expected their organizations to hire in the second half of 2014. Small companies with one to 99 employees were most likely to add jobs, with 46 percent expecting to hire new employees in the second half of the year.

On the flip side, 12 percent of HR professionals were concerned about the job market and anticipated job cuts in the U.S. labor force. But respondents’ level of pessimism about the job market is down from 19 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and 25 percent in the second quarter of 2013.

As usual, the degree of optimism among HR professionals varied across U.S. regions. Respondents from the West once again were the most confident about job growth, as they frequently have been in the past few years. A total of 67 percent of HR professionals in the West were somewhat or very optimistic. Respondents in the Northeast reported the lowest level of faith in the job market, although 55 percent were optimistic.

Bullish on Hiring

HR professionals reported a high level of faith about job growth for the second half of 2014.
Very optimistic about job growth14%
Somewhat optimistic about job growth50%
Neither optimistic nor pessimistic about job growth24%
Somewhat pessimistic about job growth, anticipating job losses10%
Very pessimistic about job growth, anticipating job losses2%

Some Jobs Hard to Fill

Skilled workers were among those HR professionals identified as the most difficult to hire in the first half of 2014.
Salaried individual contributor 34%
Labor, skilled 20%
Management 14%
Labor, low-skilled 7%
Source: SHRM Jobs Outlook Survey (July-December 2014).

Part of HR professionals’ optimism may stem from the relatively strong hiring activity many organizations experienced in the first half of 2014. Fifty percent said their companies created jobs in the first two quarters of the year, which was up from 44 percent in the second quarter of 2013. They also reported that their employees were working more hours, with 25 percent saying nonexempt employees worked more in the first half of 2014 than in the second half of 2013.

Yet SHRM’s Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report has shown a trend of increased recruiting difficulty throughout 2014 for the most strategically important manufacturing and services jobs. These jobs tend to require more skills and education. Similarly, the job category HR professionals in the JOS reported to be the most difficult to fill was “salaried individual contributors/professionals.”

As we move into the winter of 2014-15, global political instability or financial market volatility could dampen HR’s spirits. But the greatest factors shaping the views of HR professionals will continue to be their own organizations’ hiring plans and the recruiting market they face when trying to fill jobs.

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