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January 10, 2002
Firms Hiring Less, But Worried About Retention
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Although down from the record-setting heights of recent years, there is still demand for mid-to-upper level managers, high-level executives and professionals, according to the latest hiring survey conducted by Management Recruiters International, a Cleveland-based search and recruitment organization.

Just as significantly, the survey also found that even those companies who cannot add people are determined to maintain their current levels of staffing.

Of the nearly 1,800 executives surveyed, 38.4 percent indicated plans to make additions to their staffs during the first half of 2002, down by 5.4 points from second half 2001. Another 49.3 percent plan to maintain their current staff sizes, up by 4.1 points, and 12.3 percent plan decreases, up by 1.3 points.

"Although the number of companies planning on adding staff has declined, those planning to maintain their current staff sizes have increased. We believe this reflects a hidden demand for talent," MRI President and CEO Allen Salikof said.

"Many companies," he added, "are locked into headcount right now, and as soon as they begin to see positive signals coming from the economy, there will be a flurry of hiring activity. And while this `wait-and-see' mode is prevalent, other companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to upgrade their staffs during this period when talent they could not previously attract is more available."

There are few regional differences in the survey findings. Most areas of the country reflect the national trends, with many companies planning to maintain their current staff sizes until a stronger economy allows them to add new hires.

"Employment is declining from an historically high level, and the jobless rate is rising from an exceptionally low level," added Salikof. "This means that we're still dealing with a tight labor market, especially in the managerial and professional sector."

A substantial number of companies within key industries indicate plans for new hires over the next six months, while others show marked increases in maintaining their current staff sizes.

"The demand for talent in healthcare and allied industries, such as medical devices, continues to intensify," said Salikof. "Companies involved in manufacturing have gotten down to very low inventories, which should lead to an increase in production during the first quarter of the year. This will in turn create an upturn in hiring in this sector."

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