Most employers expect their staff levels to remain the same as recruiting patterns hold steady and job losses trend downward, according to CareerBuilder and USA Today’s Q3 2009 Job Forecast. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive from May 22 through June 10, 2009 among more than 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals.

"The latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job loss is moderating, a trend that will hopefully continue in the second half of the year as the financial system and economy move toward recovery,"said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Though we’re headed in the right direction, we’re not likely to experience significant movement in job creation in 2009. Jobs will be added, but overall, businesses will continue to be conservative in their hiring and maintain focus on existing human capital. Sixty-eight percent of employers said they don’t anticipate any change in their full-time, permanent headcount in the third quarter."

Hiring in Q2 2009
Sixty-four percent of employers reported no change in their staff levels in the second quarter. The number of employers who added and reduced headcount improved over the previous three months. Eighteen percent of employers said they increased their number of full-time permanent employees in the second quarter – up from 13 percent in the first quarter. Seventeen percent of employers reported a reduction in headcount, an improvement from 26 percent in the first quarter. One percent were undecided.

Hiring in Q3 2009
Looking forward, 15 percent of hiring managers expect to increase full-time, permanent headcount in the third quarter, up slightly from what was originally projected for the second quarter. Ten percent anticipate there will be a decrease in headcount in the third quarter, a projected improvement from the previous two quarters. Sixty-eight percent expect no change and 7 percent are unsure.

How Employers are Managing the Economic Downturn
In addition to exploring new markets and revenue opportunities, employers are concentrating on cost containment measures to help them endure a challenging economy. The following are six trends from the first half of the year.

No. 1 - Postponed Start Dates: Nearly one-in-10 employers (8 percent) have presented job offers with postponed start dates this year to secure talent while delaying expenses associated with additional headcount. Of these employers, 42 percent provided a pay incentive while the remainder did not.

No. 2 - Furloughs: Ten percent of employers have instituted mandatory furloughs for employees over the last six months. The majority of furloughs were one week or less, 28 percent were one to two days.

No. 3 - Pay Cuts: Sixteen percent of employers have implemented pay cuts in the last six months. Of these employers, 28 percent said all salaries were reduced by 5 percent or less while 33 percent had decreases of more than 5 percent. Thirty-nine percent reported that cuts varied according to salary and/or title.

No. 4 - Hiring Freeze: Forty-four percent of employers have instituted a hiring freeze over the last six months. Of these employers, 31 percent stated that they will be hiring going forward while 69 percent reported a continued suspension of hiring.

No. 5 - Revised Sick Policies: Thirteen percent of employers have altered their sick time or paid time off policy in 2009, offering less days, not allowing days to roll over or limiting the amount of days that can roll over.

No. 6 - Less Perks and Benefits: Forty-three percent of employers have cut perks and benefits in 2009. The top three areas impacted are bonuses, 401(k) matching and medical coverage, followed by free coffee, tea and condiments, employee incentive trips and academic reimbursement.

Hiring By Region in Q3 2009
Opportunities in government, education, healthcare and defense are helping to fuel hiring in the Northeast, which tied with the South for the largest number of employers who plan to increase full-time, permanent headcount in the third quarter (18 percent). The amount of hiring managers recruiting in the West was little changed from the previous quarter at 13 percent while the Midwest dropped from 14 percent to 11 percent amidst ongoing challenges in the manufacturing sector. Eleven percent of hiring managers in the Northeast, West and Midwest expect to trim staffs compared to 6 percent in the South.

Compensation in Q3 2009
The number of employers planning pay increases was unchanged compared to the prior three months. Forty-one percent of employers expect to increase salaries for full-time, permanent employees in the third quarter. Twenty-eight percent estimate the average raise to range between 1 and 3 percent, 12 percent expect an average raise of 4 to 10 percent while 1 percent expect raises to be 11 percent or more. Forty-seven percent of employers anticipate no change in compensation levels, 7 percent expect a decrease and 5 percent are unsure.