After a long lull, the employment picture in the plastics industry is showing signs of picking up.
Almost half or 47.6 percent of the nearly 1,000 companies that responded to a survey by the Society of Plastics Engineers and Gros Executive Recruiters said they plan to add employees this year, compared with 18.3 percent a year ago.
We are finally on a rebound, said Dennis Gros, president of the Franklin, Tenn., company that specializes in recruiting executives for the plastics and packaging industries, in a June 23 telephone interview.
Companies are hiring the people they need to rebuild their businesses, he said. They are working to get the right people to head their operations and make the right strategic decisions.
Although companies are only hiring people for production and engineering positions on a limited basis, he said, they have been hiring people for sales unlike a year ago when no one wanted to put feet on the street because of a conviction that there were no new sales to be had.
This is welcome news, said Tobi Gebauer, senior manager of membership at SPE. It validates the positive signals we're seeing from other sources.
The employment market still favors employers, with the Gros Job Market Index at www.grosre cruiters.com still at Employer +3, the maximum leverage possible for employers.
But Gros added that in the last two weeks, his firm has contacted a number of job candidates who have said they have accepted other positions.
That is a good sign for the economy, he said. It means job offers are picking up. Our index may drop to Employer +2 when we revise it at the end of June.
The findings of the survey, conducted in May, were released June 24 and are available at the websites of both Gros Executive Recruiters and SPE, with more detailed information available on the member section of the SPE website, www.4spe.org.
Gros cautioned that the hiring uptick does not mean the employment picture is back to normal.
Companies don't like the current market conditions or the levels of business and profits, but they have accepted them and begun hiring people again, Gros said.
Hiring is still fragile. There is still some lack of confidence.
In addition, he said hiring levels reflect the nationwide unemployment rate of 10 percent.
Fewer people are being hired than two years ago when the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, Gros said. There is not real stability in the market. It is an evolving market that keeps changing.
It is a fragile recovery that goes the way the wind blows or that changes with developments in the news. All of those things have a big impact on whether the owners sign off on a new position.
As a result, companies are taking a deliberate and measured approach to hiring, he said.
They want to make sure the person is the right fit. They want to avoid hiring mistakes. They are working hard to position the company properly to the job candidate.
In welcome news to both job seekers and employees, the survey found that salaries are inching upward again.
Employees told us they expect raises of 1-3 percent this year (51 percent of respondents), Gros said. And 56.4 percent of managers concurred, saying they expect their employees' compensation to increase by 1-3 percent. That is good because the expectations of both sides are the same.
But the biggest historical change, according to the survey, is the number of employees who are somewhat to actively interested in looking for new jobs. That figure has shrunk from 62 percent in 2007 to 43 percent today.
It is the security factor of the current paycheck, Gros said. The mentality of employees is that if [I] have got a job and I'm getting a paycheck, I'm not going to take a risk at this time and change I'm not going to risk my paycheck.
The average of total cash compensation for executives surveyed was up slightly in 2009 to $105,825 compared with $103,482 in 2008.
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