When Duke University came out with its regular CFO survey today, there was some good news: those of the sharp pencils and spread sheets are growing more optimistic about the economy overall.
Unfortunately that’s not going to be translating into jobs. Sixty-two percent of U.S. CFOs surveyed said they have fewer employees now than at the end of 2007, and of those more than half do not anticipate being back at their old employment levels until 2012 or later. Worse yet, in the U.S., 43 percent of companies indicated they’ll be cutting employment over the next 12 months. In Europe, 56 percent expect to do so. (Though in Asia the trend is the opposite: 60 percent of CFO’s surveyed said they expect to increase domestic employment.)
Retail is the perfect example of employer caution. Despite surprisingly strong August sales, the highest in three years, outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas predicts stores, still smarting from the general plummet in shopping, will be very slow to ramp up holiday hiring. Retailers have axed 89,242 jobs this year, an 82 percent surge from the same period last year, according to Challenger. And last year they hired only 384,300 from October through December, half the levels of the year before.
Those who are job hunting (15 million of them in the US alone) would be smart to keep their last employer in mind. According to a smaller survey done by consulting firm OI Partners, 40% of the employers they talked to are planning to rehire former workers they themselves laid off.
This is a sharp shift in mindset says OI chairman Tim Schoonover. Historically companies wouldn’t consider former staffers when they did return to hiring mode. Now employers says familiar talent is less risky. They know former colleagues’ skills and how they fit into the company’s culture. Skill shortages in areas like information technology, marketing, and finance are contributing to an opening of employer’s minds too.
By industry, financial services companies are the ones most likely to rehire laid-off employees. Manufacturers are next. Government agencies and nonprofit institutions are the least likely to do so.
Even those who are looking among the ranks of their own one-time cubicle mates won’t necessarily be offering them full time jobs. Consulting and freelance offers will definitely be in the mix, according to OI.
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