LINE Report Shows Need for Long-Term Talent Outlook

By Kathy Gurchiek Aug 26, 2008

The soft labor market of August 2008 is expected to continue into September with hiring expectations for manufacturing and service sector jobs predicted at their lowest September levels in four years, according to the latest LINE Report. As a result, HR will have to take a longer-term view of finding top job candidates, the experts say.

The Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) Report identifies early trends and changes in the national job market. It is a joint effort by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, and is released more than a month ahead of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Situation Report for the same period.

The report looks at four areas—employers’ hiring expectations in the manufacturing and service sectors; the degree that compensation levels for new hires fluctuates for that month; the job vacancy index, and difficulty in recruiting A-level talent to fill strategically important vacancies.

Data for the report are collected through a monthly survey of HR executives at more than 500 manufacturing and 500 service sector organizations. LINE has been measuring the manufacturing trends since 2004 and the service sector trends since 2005.

“All of these indicators are really down” in August 2008 “from any other year we’ve been doing it (LINE),” said Steven M. Director, Ph.D, of Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations. Director is the principal investigator for the SHRM/Rutgers LINE Report.

Overall, the September employment expectations report shows a continuation of the trend toward a generally softer labor market, according to Jennifer Schramm, SHRM manager of workplace trends and forecasting.

“We’ve got lower employment expectations than we saw at this time last year,” she stated.

When it comes to recruiting for A-level talent, “HR has got to look at it a little bit more long-term, and what we’ve seen long-term is that LINE has accurately reflected the weakening economy over the last six months,” Director said.

Both the service and manufacturing sectors need to take a longer view of their staffing needs. “Even though manufacturing in the U.S. has been declining since 1979 … a lot of manufacturers still have difficulty finding the key people for those strategic roles,” he observed.

Despite that, he added, there is an “increasing difficulty in recruiting people for key positions” in the service sector. This means it’s “probably a good time for HR managers to be opportunistic and cream the market for the best talent” to go beyond filling positions in the immediate future.

To do that, manufacturing has to address how it can attract top talent in what is perceived as a declining sector.

“Your industry or firm has to show growth potential. Make an argument that either your segment [of the industry] has long-run potential or your firm has above-average potential for your industry,” Director said.

Show how your organization is different or how the part of the sector your firm is in is different, he advised.

Tailor recruitment to that A talent by telling them that “you can help us be the exception to the rule and take advantage of those opportunities others may be walking away from,” he said.

“What’s going to limit a firm’s competiveness, the economy’s competiveness, is not going to be the number of raw workers out there,” he said, but how successful organizations are in filling those A-level positions.

In a repeat of the August LINE Report, the September LINE Report shows substantial drops in employment expectations in the manufacturing and service sectors. In fact, the expectation is that hiring in both sectors will be at the lowest September levels in four years.

New-Hire Compensation

This index measures whether compensation for new hires is going up or down.

For the manufacturing sector, compensation for new hires fell slightly from 9.5 in August 2007 to 8.5 in August 2008, but it rose in the service sector from 10.2 in August 2007 to 14.2 in August 2008.

The change in the number of vacancies in exempt and nonexempt employment sectors that employers are actively trying to fill is an early indicator of the supply and demand of labor.

Job vacancies for exempt and nonexempt positions for both sectors are down substantially for August 2008 from a year ago, noted Schramm.

The recruiting difficulty index measures how difficult it is for employers to recruit A-level candidates to fill positions that are of greatest strategic value to the employers.

The difficulty in recruiting A-level candidates fell for both sectors in August 2008 compared to August 2007, with manufacturing experiencing a “substantial” drop in recruiting difficulty.

Director characterized the drop in the recruiting difficulty index for the service sector as a “temporary, cyclical dip.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect