Executives Weigh in on First-Quarter Hiring Outlook

Robert Half Professional Employment Report Reveals Increased Hiring in Some Fields, Greater Recruiting Challenges

Dec 06, 2010, 17:35 ET from Robert Half International

MENLO PARK, Calif., Dec. 1, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Ten percent of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Professional Employment Report (http://www.roberthalf.us/per) said they plan to increase the number of full-time employees in professional occupations in the first quarter of 2011, while 5 percent anticipate declines. The resulting net 5 percent(1) increase in expected hiring activity is down one point from the fourth-quarter 2010 forecast.

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More than half (51 percent) of executives said it is at least somewhat challenging for their companies to find skilled professionals, a four-point increase from the previous quarter. Optimism among executives also rose: 88 percent of respondents said they had at least some confidence in the growth prospects for their companies, up from 86 percent in the fourth-quarter survey.

Key Findings

  • A net 5 percent of executives plan to add professional-level staff in the first quarter of 2011.

  • More than half (51 percent) of respondents(2) said it is challenging to find skilled professionals today.

  • Eighty-eight percent of executives said they are at least somewhat confident in their organizations' ability to grow in the first quarter, including 40 percent who are very confident.

  • Businesses in the West South Central(3) states project the most hiring activity, with a net 13 percent of executives from this region planning to add professional-level staff in the first quarter.

  • Companies in the professional services industry expect the most active hiring in the first quarter, with a net 7 percent of executives anticipating staff additions.

  • The legal field is again expected to see the strongest hiring, with a net 30 percent of respondents planning to increase staff levels.

The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is the first quarterly executive survey of its size and scope to focus exclusively on professional-level hiring. The survey is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 executives from a variety of fields(4) throughout the United States about their hiring plans and general level of optimism regarding the upcoming quarter.

"Many companies operating with reduced staff levels are bringing in reinforcements to relieve their overworked teams," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "While some firms are backfilling positions out of necessity, businesses also are hiring to accommodate anticipated growth in 2011."

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Region

Executives surveyed in the West South Central states predict the strongest hiring activity, with a net 13 percent of hiring managers planning to add staff. "Led by the manufacturing and oil and gas sectors, companies in the West South Central are beginning to dedicate more of their budgets to hiring needs," Messmer said. "Firms in the region also report above-average confidence in their growth prospects."

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Industry

Executives within professional services firms expect the most active hiring of any industry in the first quarter, with a net 7 percent in each sector anticipating staff additions. The transportation and construction sectors also anticipate above-average hiring activity; a net 6 percent of executives in each industry said they plan to add staff.

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Field

As they have for the past three quarters, respondents in the legal profession forecast the strongest hiring activity of all fields, with 31 percent of lawyers projecting staff increases and 1 percent anticipating declines.

"Renewed business activity is prompting law firms, specifically those that aggressively cut staff in recent years, to make targeted hires within the most in-demand practice areas," noted Brett Good, a Robert Half International senior district president. "At the same time, law firms and legal departments are addressing these rising workloads and shorter-term needs by engaging experienced contract lawyers and legal support staff."

About Robert Half International

Founded in 1948, Robert Half International, the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm, is a recognized leader in professional staffing services. The company's specialized staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam, for highly skilled temporary administrative support personnel; Robert Half Technology, for information technology professionals; Robert Half Legal, for legal personnel; and The Creative Group, for creative, advertising, marketing and web design professionals. Robert Half International has staffing and consulting operations in more than 400 locations worldwide. Find more information at http://www.roberthalf.us, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf.

(1)  Net percentages are the percentage of executives projecting increases in full-time employees minus the percentage expecting decreases.

(2)  Respondents to this question included a total of more than 3,500 chief financial officers (CFOs), chief information officers (CIOs), attorneys, and advertising and marketing executives.

(3)  Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas

(4)  Survey respondents included more than 1,400 CFOs; 1,400 CIOs; 500 senior human resources managers; 100 attorneys at law firms and 100 corporate attorneys; and 125 advertising executives and 375 marketing executives within the United States who have hiring authority.

SOURCE Robert Half International