Surveys: Few Companies Look To Add Workers in 2007

People looking for work or for a different job may have a bit harder time finding one when a new year gets under way in three weeks, two hiring surveys show.

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People looking for work or for a different job may have a bit harder time finding one when a new year gets under way in three weeks, two hiring surveys show.

Only 3 percent of companies in the Raleigh area expect to add workers in the first quarter of 2007, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey that was released Tuesday.

That’s far under the 13 percent of firms that expected to hire workers a year ago.

The Robert Half International Hiring Index reported similar numbers on Monday in its survey of 200 chief financial officers across the Triangle. Six percent of CFOs said they planned to add workers, while 2 percent saying they expect reductions.

Manpower and Robert Half both specialize in work force services.

No firms surveyed by Manpower planned to reduce payroll.

Manpower described the job market in the capital area as “modest.”

“In the Raleigh area, employers hiring plans are identical to those reported in the fourth quarter, when 3 percent of the companies interviewed intended to increase head count and none planned to decrease it,” said Jeff Stocks, spokesperson for Manpower in Raleigh. “Employers are less optimistic about hiring than they were a year ago, when 13 percent of companies surveyed thought job gains were likely and 3 percent intended to cut back.”

Of companies surveyed, 70 percent said they planned to keep head count the same. Another 27 percent said they were not sure.

Job opportunities will be best in wholesale and retail trade, Manpower reported.

The Triangle job picture is better than that nationally, according to the Robert Half survey. The net 4 percent plan to increase workers is 1 point higher than the national average.

Unemployment rates are very low both locally and nationally, however, so competition remains strong for workers, the Robert Half survey noted.

"Continued hiring, driven by business expansion, rising workloads and ongoing compliance initiatives, has created a tight labor market for skilled accounting and finance professionals," said Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive of Robert Half International. "This is prompting increased competition for the best talent, especially for positions such as staff and senior accountant, internal auditor and financial analyst."

Unemployment in Raleigh-Cary stood at 3.3 percent in October, unchanged from September, according to the latest figures from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. The Durham jobless rate also remain unchanged at 3.7 percent.

Statewide, 4.7 percent of the job force is unemployed, with a record 4.266 million people working. That’s an increase of 107,435 over October 2005.

Nationally, Manpower reported that 23 percent of employers surveyed are looking to expand headcount as 2007 begins. However, 11 percent plan to cut workers. Two consecutive quarters of “more cautious” hiring plans in the survey led to Manpower describing the employment picture as “a subtle downward shift” from consistent hiring and expansion over the past two years.

The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent in November, up slightly from 4.4 percent in October.

Manpower surveyed more than 14,000 public and private companies in 460 markets.

Across North Carolina, Manpower reported job prospects in the new year are best in Greensboro where a net 26 percent of firms surveyed plan to hire workers. Hiring prospects are also strong in Rocky Mount (24 percent).

Unemployment in Greensboro stood at 4.6 percent in October. In Rocky Mount, 6.2 percent were without jobs.

However, in Fayetteville, a net 17 percent of firms plan to decrease head count. That’s the highest total reported in the survey. Fayetteville’s jobless rate increased in October to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent the previous month.