Hiring in the plastics industry is still very static and lethargic and the salaries being offered are down 3-5 percent from what they were at the beginning of the year, said Dennis Gros, president of Gros Executive Recruiters in Brentwood, Tenn.
But he does not expect hiring to stay stagnant for long. The industry is like a spring ready to recoil. They are waiting for a signal that has not come yet, Gros said in an interview at NPE2009, held June 22-26 in Chicago.
Most of the people I talked to at NPE are expecting a much better hiring picture in the second half of the year. They see some hiring in the third quarter and a lot in the fourth quarter.
If that buzz maintains itself, it will be self-fulfilling, said Gros, whose firm exclusively focuses on the plastics and packaging industries.
Companies have their plans. They know what they want to do and are ready to hire. There is a real desire in the business community to move forward, but it hasn't happened yet, Gros said. I am not pessimistic. We just need someone to throw the switch.
In addition to the economic downturn, U.S. legislative efforts to reform health care and to set up a cap-and-trade incentives system to reduce pollution are causing companies to hesitate, Gros said.
Those measures weigh heavily in company decisions to expand and hire, because companies don't know what their tax climate will be six months from now, Gros said.
Compared to the fall of 2008, when the recession threw business into shock, companies now are into the reality phase when it comes to hiring workers, Gros said: The reality is that the cash drawer is low, so they measure that investment closely before they make a decision to hire. He said the two most active areas of hiring have been purchasing and sales, driven by a need to save money and to make money.
Despite the gloom about hiring, a just-completed survey that Gros Executive Recruiters conducted in June for Newtown, Conn.-based Society of Plastics Engineers found that 91 percent of plastics professionals were either very confident or somewhat confident that their current job would exist in a year.
By contrast, only 31 percent of managers in the industry thought the number of full-time employees in their companies would stay the same, with more than 45 percent expecting a decrease in the number of full-time employees. Another 17 percent expected full-time employment to grow in the second half of 2009.
Average compensation in 2008 was $101,834 compared to $103,705 in 2007, and the survey indicated that average could dip again in the current year. Gros said some companies are taking advantage of the hiring climate to bring in expertise at affordable prices.
Sometimes it is the exchange of one person for another, he said. It is a great time to shop for talent, because [companies] can pick and choose, and job candidates do not have much leverage to demand a high salary.
Copyright 2009 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.