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Year begins on generally optimistic hiring note

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Christy Skojec Taylor

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BY CHRISTY SKOJEC TAYLOR
Business Columnist

Monday, January 14, 2019

Express Employment Professionals surveyed business owners, decision makers and human resource professionals about the overall hiring trends in their markets and how they impact their hiring decisions.

Businesses are generally optimistic about a strong start to 2019, although signs of caution emerge.

The first quarter 2019 outlook is generally positive; however, businesses appear to show some soft signs of concern about the direction of the economy.

Thirty-eight percent said their employment market is “trending up” for the first quarter of 2019, down from 48 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Additionally, the number of businesses that said the employment market is “staying the same” increased to 53 percent from 42 percent, quarter over quarter. Only 9 percent expect their employment activity to trend downward.

The top segments hiring in the first quarter of 2019 include:

■ General Labor (Industrial): 32 percent

■ Skilled Labor (Industrial): 27 percent

■ Administrative/Office Clerical: 19 percent

■ Accounting/Finance: 10 percent

Segments creating the most new positions in the first quarter include:

■ Marketing: 40 percent

■ Information Technology: 45 percent

■ Engineering: 61 percent

■ Skilled Labor: 41 percent

■ Administrative/Office Clerical: 34 percent

The labor shortage persists across most markets.

A leading trend in 2018 has carried over into 2019 — recruiting the skilled talent needed to maintain productivity continues to be a top challenge for businesses across most markets and industries.

In fact, 83 percent of survey respondents said it was either “Somewhat Difficult” or “Very Difficult” to recruit for and fill open positions, which is up from 79 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Fewer than one-quarter of respondents said all their positions are filled.

The number of businesses that say it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to fill positions has continued to increase since the first quarter of 2017, from 65 percent to 83 percent.

The top reasons businesses say applicants turn down job offers include:

■ Job is not the perfect fit: 42 percent

■ Low pay: 26 percent

■ Lack of advancement/opportunity: 19 percent

■ Lack of transportation: 17 percent

■ Inflexible schedule: 16 percent

Wages for skilled and unskilled, non-management positions are generally higher than one year ago.

In 2018, long stagnant wages showed signs of life and are overall higher in most pay scales for non-managerial roles in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018.

In a job seeker’s market, companies must be willing to up the ante when it comes to pay and benefits to attract the best workers. In fact, 49 percent of respondents expect wages to increase over the next three months — an almost 20 percent increase over the first quarter of 2018 (41 percent).

Christy Skojec Taylor is co-owner of Express Employment Professionals in Rocky Mount.

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