Most Firms Forecast No 2009 Firing, or Hiring

Survey shows 56 percent of HR professionals not making plans for increases or decreases, with job-cutters outnumbering hirers 16 to 14 percent.
Stephen TaubDecember 30, 2008

Even as the drumbeat of layoffs grows around the country, most corporate hiring managers in a new survey say that they’re planning neither to increase nor decrease headcounts in 2009.

Fourteen percent of employers surveyed by said they plan to increase full-time, permanent employees, while 16 percent see decreases in the new year. The majority — 56 percent — said they don’t plan to make any changes to their headcount. The remaining 13 percent were unsure.

“Recruitment levels are expected to be lower in the new year, but employers are not out of the mix completely,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of “Instead they’re taking ‘a wait and see’ approach to hiring.”

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The survey was conducted online in the U.S. for by Harris Interactive among 3,259 hiring managers and human resource professionals employed full-time.

The conclusions, however, contrast somewhat with an employment survey focusing on CFOs, and done recently by CFO Research Services, a division of CFO Publishing. Among the finance executives questioned for that report, summarized in the December CFO magazine, 46 percent said their companies planned layoffs in the next year, while nearly 60 percent said they would not hire any new employees. In almost 40 percent of the interviews, CFOs said they would eliminate overtime, while another 18 percent planned to reduce workers’ hours.

In the report, the largest need for employees by region in 2009 is in the South and West. According to the survey, 18 percent of employers in the South and 14 percent of employers in the West plan to add full-time, permanent employees, compared with 13 percent in the Midwest, and 11 percent in the Northeast. The largest percentage of employers projecting staffing decreases — 19 — is in the Northeast. Seventeen percent of Midwestern employers expect decreases, with 16 percent of Western and 14 percent of Southern employers seeing cuts.

Among employee types, professional and business services and IT are expected to have the largest growth, according to the report. Specifically, 28 percent of IT and 23 percent of professional and business services employers plan to add full-time, permanent employees in 2009, while 20 percent of employers in transportation and utilities are adding staff, as are16 percent in sales, 14 percent in health care, and 13 percent in financial services. Only y percent or retail employers are also planning to expand staffs, with 5 percent of hospitality employers planning on increases.

A majority of employers also report being willing to hand out raises. According to the survey, 66 percent of employers said they plan to increase salaries for existing employees in 2009— although that is down from 80 percent in 2008.

One-third of employers expect to increase salaries on initial offers to new employees, down from 65 percent in 2008. And more specifically, 46 percent expect to raise salaries by 3 percent or more, while 10 percent anticipate 5-percent or higher increases.

Nearly one third (31 percent) of employers say they plan to provide more flexible work arrangements next year, with the most popular alternatives (70 percent) being alternate schedules, whereby employees come in early and leave early or come in later and leave later. Other arrangements: telecommuting options (48 percent), compressed workweeks (40 percent), summer hours (19 percent), job sharing (13 percent), and sabbaticals (7 percent).

Nearly one-in-five employers (17 percent) say they are likely to rehire retirees from other companies in 2009, while another 12 percent reported being likely to provide incentives for workers at or approaching retirement age to stay on with the company longer. Also, 28 percent of employers anticipate hiring freelancers or contractors in 2009.

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