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It's the right time to look for a new job

From Matt Ferguson

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( -- Is now the right time to change jobs?

According to recent reports, workers stand to benefit from a tighter labor market in the form of new opportunities and better compensation.

In 2006, the U.S. economy grew by 3.3 percent, a two-year high, and added 2 million jobs.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reaffirmed the Fed's forecast of moderate economic growth in 2007 and an ease in inflation in upcoming quarters.

Healthcareexternal link and professional and business services continue to add jobs at a healthy clip and competition for skilled workers across all industries is increasing as employers struggle to fill newly created positions and vacancies from turnover.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently measures the unemployment rate at 4.5 percent for the general workforce, 3.6 percent for people over 25 years old and 1.9 percent for those with a college degree.

Nearly one-third of 2,500 employers in the private sector surveyed by and USA TODAY report it is harder to retain employees now than one year ago. At the same time, 15 percent of more than 6,800 workers report they are actively pursuing a new position. Fifty percent state that while they are not actively seeking another job, they would be open to a new opportunity if they came across one.

Hiring plans for the second quarter point to a continuation of a moderated, yet stable hiring environment, and an increase in salaries/wages and perks to attract and maintain skilled workers.

Twenty-nine percent of employers report they will increase their number of full-time, permanent employees in the second quarter. Five percent expect to decrease headcount while 53 percent expect no change. Thirteen percent are unsure.

Compensation in Q2

Of the 31 percent of employers who reported increased difficulty with employee retention, 33 percent said they are increasing salaries and wages while 20 percent are upping bonuses and other pay incentives. Another 33 percent are increasing workplace flexibility options such as flexible hours, telecommuting and job sharing while 15 percent are expanding benefits.

Looking to the second quarter, more than one-third of all employers (36 percent) expect to increase salaries. Twenty percent estimate compensation levels will raise 1 to 3 percent. Ten percent of employers expect to grow salaries 4 to 5 percent while 6 percent are planning increases of 6 percent or higher.

Hiring by Region

Consistent with previous surveys, hiring activity is expected to remain strongest in the South and West. Thirty-four percent of employers in the West and 31 percent in the South plan to increase their staff levels compared to 26 percent in Northeast and 24 percent in the Midwest. Planned staff reductions are similar for the Northeast, Midwest and South at 5 percent while the West came in lower at 3 percent.

Hiring by Industry

Comparing select industries, the greatest amount of employers planning to add headcount operate within hospitalityexternal link and information technology.

Forty-one percent of employers in hospitality and 39 percent in information technology expect to recruit new staff members in the second quarter, followed by 33 percent in banking/financeexternal link and manufacturingexternal link and 32 percent in large healthcareexternal link organizations (over 50 employees).

Retailexternal link, salesexternal link and educationexternal link came in at 24 percent, 23 percent and 17 percent respectively.

In terms of plans for decreased headcount, sales and manufacturing came in highest at 9 percent and 8 percent respectively followed by retail, large healthcare (over 50 employees), and banking/finance at 7 percent. The three areas ranking lowest include information technology at 6 percent, education at 5 percent and hospitality at 3 percent.

Hiring by Company Size

From small and medium-sized businesses to larger organizations, employers are recruiting in the upcoming quarter. On the higher end, 32 percent of organizations with more than 1,000 employees plan to hire new staff members. Twenty-eight percent of employers with 501 to 1,000 employers and 27 percent of those with 251 to 500 employees plan to increase headcount. Comparatively smaller organizations are also contributing to job growth in the next three months. Thirty-seven percent of organizations with 51 to 250 employees and nearly one-in-four with 50 employees or less expect to increase staff levels.

The threat of staff reductions is less prevalent amongst smaller employers, according to the survey. Two percent of organizations with 50 or less employees and 4 percent of those with 51 to 250 employees plan to decrease headcount. This compares to 8 percent for companies with more than 1,000 employees.

To view the entire forecast, visit

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of and USA TODAY among 6,823 private sector employees and 2,591 hiring managers and human resource professionals (employed full-time; not self-employed; with at least significant involvement in hiring decisions), ages 18 and over within the United States between February 15 and March 6, 2007.

Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 6,823 or 2,591, one could say with a ninety-five percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.2 and +/-1.9 percentage points, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

However that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority


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