||AUGUST 7, 2002
The Hiring Picture Gets a
Job-hunters shouldn't celebrate just yet, but
a new survey suggests better days are ahead -
particularly in the financial-services sector
Reading headlines about the job market these
days is like plowing through John Steinbeck's
The Grapes of Wrath -- it can get a little
depressing. But a recent survey of nearly 200
execs from some of the largest U.S. companies
suggests that the outlook for pavement pounders
may be considerably better than it was for
Steinbeck's fictional Joad family, who lost
their Oklahoma farm and traveled all the way to
California in a fruitless search for work.
Executives are more optimistic about adding to
payrolls over the next four months than they
were in January, says the recent study by the
Broadmoor Group, a Dallas-based global executive
search firm. That response is encouraging, given
the slather of corporate scandals that have
rocked the public's faith in Big Business -- and
depressed the stock market.
Some 22% of executives expect to increase hiring
within the next six months, 67% anticipate
maintaining current staffing levels, and 11%
expect hiring to decline, according to the study
conducted by e-mail in June. In a similar survey
last January, only 19% of execs responded that
they might be hiring in the near future, though
a smaller number -- only 8% -- predicted a
decrease in hiring.
"GET ON WITH IT."
"In spite of [the accounting scandals],
Corporate America seems to be still fairly
optimistic," says Randall Neal, the Broadmoor
Group's managing director. "Except for the
faltering telecommunications industry,
businesses seem optimistic about the coming
months. Companies are starting to see positive
movement in earnings, sales, and orders -- and
have decided that they have to get on with
business [after the September 11 terrorist
Who's most optimistic about hiring?
Financial-services execs, whose ranks were
decimated by the dearth of initial public
offerings (IPOs), mergers, and acquisitions that
followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The
Broadmoor Group survey shows that 30% of
financial execs now expect an increase in hiring
in the next six months, while 55% foresee no
change. Meanwhile, 15% of execs predict a
dropoff from current hiring levels, according to
It's no surprise that the execs who are least
inclined to hire new workers these days are
those in the battered telecom industry, which
has been rocked almost weekly by disappointing
news or scandals. Only 5% of the
telecommunications execs who were surveyed
expect to boost hiring. Meanwhile, 14% foresee a
decrease in hiring, and 81% predict no change.
The survey was conducted before the news hit of
WorldCom's financial shenanigans and its Chapter
11 bankruptcy filing.
HOLDING PATTERN. In
several other industries, hiring projections are
up, but conservatively so. The survey found that
12% of manufacturing execs foresee a boost in
hiring for the rest of the year, while an equal
percentage predict a drop and 76% expect no
change. In professional services, 26% of execs
expect an increase in hiring, 12% anticipate a
decrease, and the remaining 62% expect to
maintain the status quo. In the once white-hot
software/technology arena, 26% of execs predict
some hiring, 14% expect a decline, and 65% are
betting on things staying the same.
There's still a gap between rising optimism
about business conditions and the anticipated
need to hire, the survey reports. Across all
sectors, it finds, some 68% of execs believe
that business conditions will improve by
December, 30% estimate that conditions will stay
the same, and a scant 2% expect business
conditions to worsen. The bottom line, says
Neal, is that many executives are in a holding
pattern -- waiting for more emphatic signs of an
improved economy before they commit to bringing
on new recruits. "Most of the executives we
surveyed are cautiously optimistic," Neal says.
In other words, the U.S. economy is a lot more
promising than it was in John Steinbeck's day.
So most world-weary jobseekers will no doubt
find the happy ending that eluded the Joads.
Billy Cheng in New York
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