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2012 Hiring Outlook: Cautiously Optimistic, Plus 4 Trends to Watch

2012 hiring outlookEmployers expect to add new jobs in the New Year, but are waiting to see how the economy shapes up before turning up the volume on hiring, according to CareerBuilder’s annual job forecast. Nearly one-in-four hiring managers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, similar to 2011. Employment trends among small businesses, which account for the majority of job creation in the U.S., are expected to show some improvement over last year. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive© from November 9 to December 5, 2011, included more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes. “Historically, our surveys have shown that employers are more conservative in their predictions than actual hiring,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. “Barring any major economic upsets, we expect 2012 to bring a better hiring picture than 2011, especially in the second half of the year. Many companies have been operating lean and have already pushed productivity limits. We’re likely to see gradual improvements in hiring across categories as companies respond to increased market demands.”

What exactly does this mean? Here’s the breakdown:

Full-time, Permanent Hiring Twenty-three percent of employers surveyed plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, relatively unchanged from 24 percent for 2011 and up from 20 percent for 2010. Seven percent expect to decrease headcount, the same as for 2011 and an improvement from 9 percent for 2010. Fifty-nine percent anticipate no change in their staff levels while 11 percent are unsure. Small Business HiringSmall businesses are reporting more confidence in both hiring and retaining headcount in 2012. Plans to downsize dropped two percentage points across small business segments while plans to hire increased two percentage points among companies with 50 or fewer employees.

  • 50 or fewer employees – 16 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff in 2012, up from 14 percent for 2011; those reducing headcount fell from 5 percent for 2011 to 3 percent for 2012
  •  250 or fewer employees – 20 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff, up from 19 percent for 2011; those reducing headcount fell from 6 percent for 2011 to 4 percent for 2012
  • 500 or fewer employees – 21 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff, on par with 2011; those reducing headcount fell from 6 percent for 2011 to 4 percent for 2012

Hiring By RegionRegional data presents a mixed picture. Similar to annual forecasts for the last two years, more employers in the West plan to recruit new employees in 2012 than other regions. Twenty-four percent of employers in the West reported they plan to add full-time, permanent headcount, followed closely by the South and Midwest at 23 percent and Northeast at 21 percent. However, the West also houses the highest number of companies planning to downsize in 2012 (9 percent) – reflecting a blend of both optimism and uncertainty seen across regions. Eight percent in the Northeast, 7 percent in the South and 6 percent in the Midwest also plan to reduce headcount.

Four Employment Trends to Watch in 2012:

#1 – Compensation Getting More Competitive for Skilled PositionsEmployers expect compensation levels to increase for both current staff and prospective employees as recruiting for skilled talent becomes more competitive. Sixty-two percent of employers plan to increase compensation for their existing employee base while 32 percent will offer higher starting salaries for new employees. Among functional areas where human resource managers anticipate there will be the greatest increases in compensation at their organizations in 2012 are those tied to revenue generation.

  • Sales – 24 percent of human resource managers
  • Information Technology – 20 percent
  • Engineering – 14 percent
  • Business Development – 14 percent

#2 – Voluntary Turnover on the Rise – One-third (34 percent) of human resource managers reported that voluntary turnover at their organizations rose in 2011. Employers pointed to the desire for higher compensation and feeling over-worked as the top two reasons employees gave for resigning. Thirty percent of employers said they lost top performers to other organizations in 2011 and 43 percent stated they are concerned top talent may jump ship in the New Year. 

#3 –  Training Employed/Unemployed – There is an increasing number of areas where demand for skilled positions is growing much faster than supply, prompting employers to take “re-skilling” workers into their own hands. Thirty-eight percent plan to train people who don’t have experience in their particular industry and hire them for positions within their organizations in 2012.

#4 Employers Targeting Hispanic Workers, African American Workers and Women – Aware of the benefits diversity can bring to their organization, 29 percent of employers said they will be focused on recruiting diverse workers to expand their employee demographics. One-in-five (20 percent) will be targeting Hispanic workers and African American workers to work for their organizations while the same number will be recruiting more women. Forty-four percent plan to hire bilingual workers in 2012.

What other hiring trends do you anticipate seeing for 2012 in your organization?

Stephanie Gaspary

About Stephanie Gaspary

Stephanie is the managing director of content strategy at CareerBuilder, tasked with creating opportunities to share the CareerBuilder story across job seeker and employer channels. Stephanie, a lifelong learner, holds a Master's in Business Administration and a Master's in Management - both from North Park University and a Bachelor's degree in Art from Bethel University. A Minnesotan at heart, Stephanie has lived in Chicago for nearly 20 years, is the doting mother to two wacky german shorthaired pointer pups, looks forward to her morning run *almost* as much as that first cup of coffee and vows to one day live in the mountains.


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