2011: A Good Year to Get a Job?

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The experts seem to agree: This year will be better for employment than last year. But how much better?

You’ve probably heard the expression, “A man with one watch knows what time it is, but a man with two watches is never quite sure.” What about a man with three economic experts telling him he’ll find a job in 2011?

Within 72 hours last week, three such experts made their bold predictions for next year’s economy, focusing a lot on jobs. If you had to sum up their attitude, it would be “cautious optimism.” Here’s what they said…

“Your prospects are likely to improve to some degree”

The employment site Careerbuilder released its annual jobs forecast last Wednesday. After polling 2,400 hiring managers and HR directors, it came up with 10 areas where those employers plan to add jobs this year…

  1. sales (27 percent of employers plan to hire more)
  2. information technology (26 percent)
  3. customer service (25 percent)
  4. engineering (21 percent)
  5. technology (19 percent)
  6. administrative (17 percent)
  7. business development (17 percent)
  8. marketing (17 percent)
  9. research/development (15 percent)
  10. accounting/finance (14 percent)

“More than half of employers reported they are in a better financial position today than they were one year ago,” CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson said. “2011 will usher in a healthier employment picture as business leaders grow more confident in the economy. Our survey indicates more jobs will be added in 2011 than 2010, but job creation will remain gradual. The year will be characterized by steady, measured gains across various industries.”

Other findings…

Full-time hiring: “24 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2011, up from 20 percent in 2010 and 14 percent in 2009.”

Part-time hiring: “13 percent of employers expect to hire part-time employees in the next 12 months, up from 11 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2009.”

Contract/temporary hiring: “34 percent reported they will hire contract or temporary workers to supplement leaner staffs in 2011, up from 30 percent last year and 28 percent in 2009.”

“Economic lift steady but slow”

The Turnaround Management Association (TMA), which calls itself “the only international non-profit association dedicated to corporate renewal,” polled its 9,000 members and concluded that the economic recovery’s “slow but steady rise remains insufficient to lift hiring levels at U.S. businesses.”

But that doesn’t mean the job situation isn’t improving – just that it’s not really arrived yet. And one sector is dragging down the overall outlook: “The commercial real estate industry again led the list of industries most likely to face distress in 2011, based on 64 percent of responses. The residential real estate industry occupied second place with 40 percent of responses.”

But other areas are looking up – specifically, the automotive industry…

“It led this year’s list of industries most likely to improve in 2011. Technology, the leader in that same category last year, ranked second place (32 percent) and energy (26 percent) third, among industries most likely to improve. More than five out of 10 respondents, in each case, said those industries would benefit from improvement in the economy and increased demand for products and services.”

So what needs to happen to improve hiring in other sectors? Not surprisingly for a bunch of corporate executives, they want more tax cuts.

“The overriding view is that further governmental action is going to be essential to move corporations to the hiring of more people,” said Thomas E. Pabst, president of HYPERAMS, a Chicago-area investing firm. “People are generally just starting to feel better, but we are only inching forward.”

“Cautious optimism for 2011 on hiring, salary increases”

Other corporate leaders had a cheerier view of the year upcoming. The HR consulting firm Empsight asked 142 Fortune 500 and larger multinational corporations’ executives about hiring, salaries, and other economic issues. The results were encouraging

Hiring expectations showed a significant improvement over 2009, with 39 percent of companies expecting headcount increases of 1 percent to 5 percent, and 18 percent expecting reductions of the same amount. The corresponding figures in last year’s edition of the survey were 21 percent and 26 percent. Retail, professional services and technology companies showed the strongest hiring forecasts.

What if you already have a job? Well, Empsight’s survey adds, “The number of companies planning merit increases was 98 percent.” Now that’s good news.

For a recent story with other guesses at what’s ahead, see 2011 Forecast: Stocks, Housing and Oil Prices

Stacy Johnson

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