The HR Take on Job Creation in 2014

By Joseph Coombs Jan 12, 2015
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By most accounts, 2014 went down as a successful year for job creation. Problems do remain— millions are still out of work, others are underemployed and middle-class jobs are shrinking—but purely from a numbers standpoint, the labor market grew at a solid pace.

In the midst of this expansion, HR professionals have a unique perspective on employment trends—they recruit, they hire and fire, they measure workers’ engagement with their jobs, and perform other tasks that are connected to the health of the labor force. And in 2014, those in the HR sector shared scores of their job market observations.

Some professed a high degree of faith in the U.S. labor market, others expressed continued difficulty with finding properly qualified workers, and yet more said they were committed to improving their own skill sets in 2015. What follows is a summary of HR professionals’ responses to a variety of surveys conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2014.

Only 27 percent of HR professionals said their organizations were hiring for HR help in December 2014, according to SHRM’s HR Jobs Pulse Survey. And yet, the vast majority of respondents (85 percent) had some level of confidence that they could land a new HR job, if needed. Of that 85 percent, six in 10 said they were “somewhat confident,” and one fourth said they were “very confident.” From that same survey, many HR professionals said they planned to improve their skills in the near future. Two-thirds (67 percent) said they will be focused on developing HR competencies in the next six to 12 months in order to advance their careers.

Hiring in the manufacturing and service sectors—which together make up about 90 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce—was strong throughout 2014, according to SHRM’s Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report. When compared with the previous year, the job creation rate rose in manufacturing for 10 out of 12 months in 2014; this occurred in nine out of 12 months in the service sector. Still, many HR professionals said they had trouble finding qualified candidates for open positions—recruiting difficulty reached four-year highs in both sectors for every month from May to November.

The Jobs Outlook Survey (JOS), released in October 2014, showed that 64 percent of respondents had some level of confidence in the U.S. labor market in the second half of 2014 and expected job growth. Of that group, 50 percent were “somewhat optimistic,” and 14 percent were “very optimistic.” The 64 percent marked the highest level of optimism since the JOS survey was launched in January 2009.

SHRM’s annual Employee Benefits survey, released in June 2014, revealed that more organizations are embracing health care plans that shift a greater percentage of health care costs to employees, and more companies are offering preventive health and wellness benefits to their workers. The results also showed a participation decline in several categories of professional and career development benefits.

Three out of five (60 percent) workers rated compensation/pay as “very important,” making it the top contributor to evaluating overall employee job satisfaction, according to SHRM’s annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey, released in May 2014. That factor was ranked as low as fifth overall as recently as 2010, but a slow-growth environment for compensation has clearly had an impact on workers’ priorities as of late.

Recruiting difficulty was cited quite often in SHRM’s Economic Conditions survey series, released in October 2014. Half of HR professionals surveyed said they had difficulty recruiting for full-time jobs during the previous 12 months. Although many of them cited “lack of work experience” and “lack of the right technical skills” (50 percent each) among applicants as the reason, another 37 percent said they could not fill the jobs because “qualified candidates rejected the compensation package.”

Despite reports that some employers would shed health care coverage in response to federal reforms, HR professionals had other news: only 1 percent of organizations said they expected to eliminate health care coverage in 2015, and no government agencies said they would drop those benefits, according to the SHRM/EBRI 2014 Health Benefits Survey, which was released in November 2014.

With hiring competition fierce in many sectors of the economy, a majority of HR professionals said they worked fast when the applications arrived at their desk. More than three out of four (76 percent) recruiters said they spent less than five minutes reviewing a resume to determine if the job candidate would proceed to the next step of the selection process, according to SHRM Survey Findings: Resumes, Cover Letters and Interviews, released in April 2014.

Joseph Coombs is a senior analyst for workforce trends at SHRM.

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