The Blog

2013 Economic Outlook

Imagine an airliner taxiing down the runway; it starts slowly, gains speed, and then it is up and away. The past few years, the economy has been taxiing. We’ve seen steady progress, albeit slow. In 2012, the economy picked up speed in its trajectory down the runway. This year, we are ready for takeoff. 

2012 was a year of continuous growth for WinterWyman and many of our clients. We saw increases in both job orders and successful placements, continuing a trend that began in 2011. In fact, last year was marked by upsurges in hiring over 2011 in all of the segments we serve. A few, including technology and biopharma, experienced substantial growth.

The Turn Toward Contract Staffing
2012 was a stellar year for professionals interested in contract positions. In fact, we filled more contract positions last year than ever before in our history. Many companies are experiencing explosive growth which has taxed their workforces causing an urgent need for additional staff. Yet, we are still seeing company leaders who are hesitant to invest in permanent hires. They worry that the economy is still too shaky and lingering issues, like the sequester and economic uncertainty in Europe, don’t instill confidence.

In response, companies are moving cautiously in their hiring, and are turning to contract staffing. What we’ve seen recently is our contract assignments are lasting longer and are often being extended. Traditionally our engagements average three to six months, but today we are seeing as many six-month, twelve-month and open-ended assignments. In some cases, these contract positions turn into permanent jobs.

Contract staffing can be beneficial to both employers and employees as long- and short-term strategies. Companies benefit by mitigating their financial risk and filling key positions without having to increase headcount or invest resources before they are ready. Job seekers who choose contract work can also be at an advantage. They are working, which allows them to collect a paycheck and hone their skills — and also provides an opportunity to show off their talents to their contract employer should the position eventually become permanent. Even those who aren’t hired by the company can benefit because they are more marketable to other potential employers if they are working.  The contract assignment can also give them some security while they find the right job and relieve the pressure of jumping at the first offer tendered.

An Upswing in Direct Hiring
Even though direct hiring and executive-level searches aren’t keeping pace with contract hiring, they are on the upswing. But the process can take a while. Companies have become more selective and want to interview multiple candidates, even after seeing a candidate who, in the past, would have been considered a “perfect fit.” In fact, companies expect to find several perfect fits and to be able to select from among them. After years of operating in a “buyer’s market” when hiring, many companies have grown accustomed to taking their time to make sure they get it right.

A buyer’s market attitude combined with a small pool of highly sought after candidates is causing an interesting dichotomy in the recruitment world right now. Companies want the cream of the crop, and they tend to pursue them aggressively. Top-tier candidates are getting multiple offers and the hiring process for them is happening lightening fast. It’s not unusual for a star technologist to receive eight or ten offers in just a couple of weeks.  However, many companies, still under a false perception that they are in the power position, are moving too slowly to court these high achievers. Unless they are able to shift their thinking, these slow moving organizations will be left out in the race for this top talent.

Finding the Hot Jobs
While these trends in contract staffing, search and direct hiring are holding steady for the overall job market, there are a number of sectors that are particularly strong. Hiring for technology positions is robust, with many opportunities for .NET developers, Linux administrators and business intelligence and data warehouse professionals, as well as JAVA, Ruby, mobile and web developers.  Cloud administrators are also in great demand.

We also seem to be in the midst of a renaissance of entrepreneurial development. Start-ups are making a comeback, particularly in Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, with the proliferation of business incubators in these areas. As a result, there is a resurgence of hiring by start-ups.  These opportunities aren’t limited to technical positions, however. There are also many openings for accountants, human resources professionals, back office, sales, customer service and support staff. 

The economy has enjoyed noticeable growth in recent months, and that has been reflected in the volume and types of job opportunities we are seeing. It won’t be long before a robust recovery is driving hiring throughout the sectors we serve. In the meantime, companies will continue to offer many contract opportunities while they build back up to previous levels of permanent hiring. One message is clear:  It’s time to buckle up.  We’re ready for takeoff!  

Photo Credit: A&K Painting