The Manpower Group has been conducting a quarterly hiring activity survey long enough to proffer a graph that stretches back two decades. Their latest survey for the fourth quarter of 2012 tells some interesting stories:
1. Their “Net Employment Outlook” for Q4 2012 is at eleven percent for overall employment growth, and is the strongest fourth-quarter result posted since the final quarter of 2007, just before the financial collapse of 2008 kicked in. Here’s a snippet from their employment graph:
Scale to the left, data from Q2’07 through Q4’12 to the right (highlighted)
Source: Manpower Group
2. The trend is clearly upward since the very lowest reads in 2009, but is punctuated by plateaus between modest upward rises. This kind of reading is very much in keeping with what I’ve described in other blogs as “slow growth mode” (2, 3, 4). This tells me such a punctuated rhythm is very likely to continue for some time to come.
3. According to the sector details from Manpower Group, both information and professional and business services sectors — where I think most IT professionals may be found in this reporting — is continuing upward, but forecasts for Q3 were stronger than those for Q4 (12 vs 9 percent for information, and 20 vs. 13 percent for professional and business services). Does this indicate diminishing enthusiasm and/or prospects? I think the answer is yes to the former, but not necessarily to the latter. Methinks it’s more indicative of our hitting another plateau, where growth is more or less flat for the moment (shown in the black line on the preceding chart).
Where do we go from here? The trend line says things will be flat for a while, so I’m guessing the answer may come from the business community’s reactions to the recently announced round of quantitative easing (QE3) from the Fed, and from their assessment of recent bail-out and Euro support moves from the ECB. With equity markets up to near record levels, we should hope that companies will take heart and start planning to add more headcount, including more positions in IT. Keep your fingers crossed: it’s by no means a sure thing, or a done deal!