2017 Hiring Trends Show Signs of Optimism—and Challenges—ahead of the New Year

To provide timely employment forecasts for the U.S. and Canada, Express Employment Professionals International Headquarters conducts an ongoing Job Insights Survey to track quarterly hiring trends for businesses across a wide range of industries.

Results from the 2017 fourth quarter Job Insights survey, as well as trends noted across all four quarters this year, paint an optimistic picture of the state of hiring and the economy as we head into 2018.

Businesses are optimistic about the economy
The vast majority of respondents reported that they expect to see an upward trend in hiring, or at least maintain the status quo. Only 11% of businesses expect their employment activity to trend downward in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Up slightly since the beginning of 2017, 45% of respondents say they expect business to trend up, followed by 44% who believe their hiring activity will stay on par with current levels. In fact, these statistics have remained relatively consistent throughout 2017, which bodes well for the economy heading into the new year.

The most robust hiring activity this year has been in the “general labor” segment, followed by skilled labor (industrial), and administrative/office clerical. And perhaps the most optimistic statistic heading into 2018, 92% of respondents do not plan to eliminate positions in the fourth quarter—which is up from 86% in fourth quarter 2016.

Despite optimism about the economy, qualified candidate pools continue to dry
Across most industries, there are jobs to be found. However, candidates with the skills to fill in-demand positions are becoming fewer and far between. Attracting and retaining top performers continues to be one of the highest priorities for businesses.

According to Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, “Good economic news doesn’t come without its challenges. Finding new workers is today’s challenge—and one that employers and policymakers will need to tackle as long as the economy continues to grow.”

The Job Insights Survey revealed that more than 70% of businesses say it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to recruit for and fill positions, with the top three reasons jobs go unfilled including lack of applicants with experience, lack of applicants in general, and lack of applicants with hard skills.

Wage growth will remain stable, but largely unchanged
Wage growth is often a barometer for the health of the overall economy. If wages are increasing, then employment activity is likely on the uptick as businesses compete for top talent to fill open positions, as well as retain their current workforce. For the fourth quarter of 2017, survey results indicate wage growth will remain mostly stable, with some growth expected.

When asked how wages would fluctuate over the next three months, the majority of respondents said wages would remain the same in the near future. A little more than one-third expect to see an increase, while only 1% of businesses surveyed believe wages in their companies will decrease.

“Although there’s certainly good news for some workers, most will likely see unchanged wages in the fourth quarter of 2017,” said Funk. “However, as the labor market continues to tighten, we would expect to see higher rates of wage increases in the coming quarters.”

About the Job Insights Survey
Express Employment Professionals surveyed business owners, decision makers, and human resource professionals about the overall national hiring trends and how they impact their hiring decisions in their markets. The fourth quarter survey took place in August 2017 and was completed by 573 respondents.

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