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Executives Optimistic but Hiring Plans Slim

By CIO Update Staff

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Business optimism is rising but hiring isn't following that trend. That's the takeaway. But, according to The Robert Half Professional Employment Report , 92 percent of executives said they are confident in their firms’ growth prospects in Q3 of 2011. Just under half, some 44 percent, said they are very confident. This compares with 86 percent who expressed confidence in the Q2 survey.

The majority of executives, 90 percent, anticipate no change in staff levels during Q3. Only 6 percent of respondents anticipate hiring professional-level staff and 3 percent foresee declines. The resulting net 3 percent planning staff additions is down two points from the second-quarter forecast. Even with the slight decrease in the net projection, the percentage of executives expecting to see staff reductions has been trending down over the past five quarters.

Executives also reported difficulties finding the talent they need. Almost one in two of respondents said it is challenging to find skilled professionals today, up from 37 percent in the second-quarter survey.

Key Findings:

“Business confidence continues to grow,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, in a statement. “Although some companies remain reluctant to commit to full-time hires, others are actively looking for professionals to help them take advantage of new growth opportunities and enhance client service.”

Professional level hiring -- by region

Respondents in the West South Central and Pacific states predict the strongest hiring activity in the third quarter, with a net 6 percent of executives in each region planning to add staff.

"Business has picked up for many companies in the West South Central region -- especially energy and manufacturing firms. Positions being added are in response to new growth, in many cases," Messmer noted. "Hiring in the Pacific region also is accelerating, with top candidates beginning to receive multiple offers."

Professional level hiring -- by industry

A net 6 percent of executives in the construction industry expect to make staff additions. A net 5 percent of manufacturing respondents plan to hire in the third quarter.

Professional level hiring -- by field

Respondents in the legal profession continue to forecast the strongest hiring activity among all fields: 35 percent of lawyers anticipate hiring legal professionals in the third quarter and 5 percent expect declines.

"Demand is strong for legal professionals in law firms that aggressively laid off employees during the downturn," Messmer noted. "Firms are focusing on senior- and partner-level lawyers with strong client relationships, solid business skills and management experience."

The advertising and marketing fields also are expected to see notably active hiring: 22 percent of executives indicated they are planning to hire and 3 percent project staff reductions in the third quarter.

About the survey

The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 C-level executives and other leaders from a variety of fields throughout the United States. Those interviewed are asked about their hiring plans and general level of optimism for the upcoming quarter. Survey respondents include more than 1,400 CFOs; 1,400 chief information officers CIOs; 500 senior human resources managers; 100 lawyers at law firms and 100 corporate lawyers; and 125 advertising executives and 375 marketing executives, all of whom have hiring authority.