What’s In Store for the Job Market for the Second Half of 2015?

By Joseph Coombs Jul 9, 2015
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Hiring conditions are perhaps in their strongest stretch since the Great Recession ended six years ago. Job openings have reached a level not seen in nearly 15 years, and more workers are quitting their current positions in search of something better, thus creating churn and opportunities for other job seekers.

Problems do remain: One-third of HR professionals in the manufacturing sector (33.7 percent) said they experienced increased recruiting difficulty in June, as did 27.5 percent of service-sector HR professionals, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) report. June marked the 16th straight month that recruiting difficulty rose for HR professionals compared with the previous year, according to LINE data.

Also, the number of the long-term unemployed, or those without work for 27 weeks or more, remained elevated at 2.5 million people in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Another 6.7 million people were working part time in May because they could not find full-time work or their hours were cut back.

A recent report from the BLS, however, clearly shows that overall, the market has turned in favor of the job seeker. In 2014, hires increased for the fifth year in a row, and voluntary quits rose by 10.4 percent, according to a June 2015 article on job openings and labor turnover by the BLS. The rise in the quits rate is noteworthy when evaluating the labor market’s health because it indicates job seekers’ increased confidence in their ability to find more desirable work.

Prior to the Great Recession, the article stated, job openings peaked at 4.7 million in March 2007, and that level was “surpassed each month from June 2014 to December 2014.” Most recently, there were 5.4 million job openings in April, the highest level since the BLS began recording the data series in December 2000.

Hiring has also been steady and broad-based in the first half of 2015. Preliminary data from the BLS show that an average of 217,400 jobs were created each month from January to May, slightly behind an average of 229,000 during that same period in 2014, but healthy enough to keep unemployment levels in check.

Looking ahead, here are some projections for job growth in the coming months:

The National Association for Business Economics (NABE), in its outlook released June 8, 2015, predicted the economy will expand at a slower rate throughout 2015 than the group had previously forecasted back in March. However, the Washington, D.C.-based association still expects employment growth to be “robust” for the remainder of the year. The survey’s respondents expect average monthly gains of 217,000 jobs for the rest of 2015, and for the nation’s unemployment rate to drop to an average of 5.2 percent for the fourth quarter.

Members of the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Reserve Bank Presidents, in a set of projections released June 17, 2015, had varying opinions that called for the unemployment rate to range between 5.0 to 5.3 percent in 2015, from 4.6 percent to 5.2 percent in 2016, and from 4.8 percent to 5.5 percent in 2017. In a statement from the June 17 meeting, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said, “it seems likely that some cyclical weakness in the labor market remains,” and cited a below-average participation rate, elevated part-time employment and subdued wage growth. “Although progress clearly has been achieved, room for further improvement remains,” Yellen said.

The United States has one of the strongest hiring outlooks in the world for the third quarter of 2015, according to Manpower’s Employment Outlook Survey released June 9, 2015. Of more than 11,000 U.S. companies surveyed, 24 percent anticipate adding staff during the July-to-September time frame, the highest level since the third quarter of 2008. Another 70 percent said they would keep payrolls flat, while just 4 percent expected job cuts, the staffing services company said. Globally, employers in 40 of 42 countries and territories surveyed said they would add jobs in the third quarter, according to Manpower.

Technology workers continue to be in high demand, based on a survey released June 4, 2015, by staffing services company Robert Half International. More than one in five (22 percent) of chief information officers plan to increase staff in their IT departments in the second half of 2015, the survey said. That represents a three-point increase from the first half of 2015 and a jump of eight percentage points from the second half of 2014.

The Institute for Supply Management, in a forecast released May 6, 2015, said expectations for the rest of 2015 “continue to be positive in both the manufacturing and nonmanufacturing sectors.” The organization, which promotes the practice of supply chain management, said 33 percent of its manufacturing and nonmanufacturing members expect job growth for the remainder of 2015.

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

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