In 2013, 'Hot' Skills Will Reap Higher Rewards

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 30, 2012

Workers with skills that are most in demand are likely to receive above-average raises in 2013, in part because it's easier for them to find new jobs, according to a compensation expert.

"In the U.S., we really have two job markets," explained Paul McDonald, senior executive director of staffing firm Robert Half International, during an interview with SHRM Online.

Overall, the national unemployment rate remains high at about 7.8 percent, McDonald said. “But for experienced professionals in many fields—technology in particular and increasingly in areas such as accounting/finance, legal and even highly skilled administrative positions—the unemployment rate is in the 2-5 percent range.”

People searching for these jobs are spending weeks rather than months in the hunt. “For these positions, we're beginning to see a ‘war for talent,’" McDonald noted.

To illustrate, McDonald cited the following numbers (released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in early October 2012 as part of the BLS Current Population Survey), which show U.S. unemployment rates for the following in-demand positions:

  • Financial managers—2 percent unemployed.
  • Network and computer systems administrators—1.7 percent unemployed.
  • Advertising managers—1.1 percent unemployed.

Bigger Raises for valued Skills

In 2013, many sources project that base pay in the U.S. overall will increase about 3 percent. However, raises for positions in greatest demand will be substantially higher, McDonald noted. For instance, based on Robert Half's 2013 U.S. salary guides, average 2013 base pay increases for in-demand professionals are projected as shown below.

In-Demand Positions: 2012 vs. 2013




% Change


Mobile applications developer




Wireless network engineer





Licensed lawyer (4-9 years' experience, small/midsize law firm)




Corporate attorneys (10-12 years' experience)




Accounting & Finance

Senior financial analyst (large company)




Senior accountant (large company)





Customer services manager




Senior administrative assistant




Source: Robert Half International. Figures represent national averages.

For HR professionals, the firm's Office Team 2013 Salary Guide projects the following increases:

HR Positions: 2012 vs. 2013




% Change

HR assistant




HR recruiting specialist/coordinator




HR benefits specialist/coordinator




Source: Robert Half International. Figures represent national averages.

Retaining Talent

To keep experienced professionals from jumping ship, McDonald said that more employers are adding value to their total rewards by offering training in "soft skills," such as public speaking and writing, intended to help employees advance up the career ladder. Increased attention is also being given to employee recognition, and to ensuring smooth relationships between employees and their managers—given that feeling unappreciated and discord with supervisors remain the top reasons behind high turnover, even more so than compensation issues.

Employers focused on retaining workers also are providing increased opportunities for community involvement in charitable endeavors, which especially appeal to younger workers, McDonald noted.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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