Job Insights for the First Quarter of 2019

Following a strong employment market in 2018, the new year begins on a generally optimistic note.

To provide accurate and timely employment forecasts for business leaders, Express Employment Professionals International Headquarters conducts an ongoing Job Insights survey to track quarterly hiring trends across a wide range of industries.

Express surveyed business owners, decision makers, and human resource professionals about the overall hiring trends in their markets and how they impact their hiring decisions.

INSIGHT: Businesses are generally optimistic about a strong start to 2019, although signs of caution emerge.
The first quarter 2019 outlook is generally positive; however, businesses appear to show some soft signs of concern about the direction of the economy. Thirty-eight percent said their employment market is “trending up” for the first quarter of 2019, down from 48% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Additionally, the number of businesses that said the employment market is “staying the same” increased to 53% from 42%, quarter over quarter. Only 9% expect their employment activity to trend downward.

The top segments hiring in the first quarter of 2019 include:

  • General Labor (Industrial): 32%
  • Skilled Labor (Industrial): 27%
  • Administrative/Office Clerical: 19%
  • Accounting/Finance: 10%

Segments creating the most NEW positions in the first quarter include:

  • Marketing: 40%
  • Information Technology: 45%
  • Engineering: 61%
  • Skilled Labor: 41%
  • Administrative/Office Clerical: 34%

The labor shortage persists across most markets.
A leading trend in 2018 has carried over into 2019—recruiting the skilled talent needed to maintain productivity continues to be a top challenge for businesses across most markets and industries. In fact, 83% of survey respondents said it was either “Somewhat Difficult” or “Very Difficult” to recruit for and fill open positions, which is up from 79% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Fewer than one-quarter of respondents said all their positions are filled.

The number of businesses that say it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to fill positions has continued to increase since the first quarter of 2017, from 65% to 83%. Top reasons businesses say applicants turn down job offers include:

  1. The job is not the perfect fit (42%)
  2. Low pay (26%)
  3. Lack of advancement/opportunity (19%)
  4. Lack of transportation (17%)
  5. Inflexible schedule (16%)

Wages for skilled and unskilled, non-management positions are generally higher than one year ago.
In 2018, long stagnant wages showed signs of life and are overall higher in most pay scales for non-managerial roles in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the first quarter of 2018. In a job seeker’s market, companies must be willing to up the ante when it comes to pay and benefits to attract the best workers. In fact, 49% of respondents expect wages to increase over the next three months—an almost 20% increase over the first quarter of 2018 (41%).

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