Executives Plan Moderate Increase in Professional-Level Hiring in Fourth Quarter

Robert Half Professional Employment Report Finds Executives Continue to be Confident in Prospects for Business Growth

MENLO PARK, Calif., Sept. 1 -- Looking toward the final months of the year, 11 percent of executives interviewed for the Robert Half Professional Employment Report (http://www.roberthalf.us/per) said they expect to increase the number of full-time staff they employ in professional occupations in the fourth quarter. Five percent anticipate declines, resulting in a net 6 percent(1) increase in hiring activity, up three points from the third-quarter forecast.

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Executives' business optimism level remains high: 86 percent of respondents expressed at least some confidence in the growth prospects for their companies, rising slightly from 85 percent reported in the third-quarter survey. The number of executives citing recruiting challenges also rose, climbing from 42 percent in the third quarter to 47 percent.

Key Findings

  • A net 6 percent of executives plan to increase hiring in professional occupations in the fourth quarter of 2010.
  • Eighty-six percent of executives said they are at least somewhat confident in their organizations' ability to grow in the fourth quarter, including 39 percent who are very confident.
  • Businesses in the South Atlantic(2) states project the most hiring activity, with a net 9 percent of executives from this region planning to add professional-level staff in the fourth quarter.
  • Companies in the business services sector expect the most active hiring in the fourth quarter, with a net 16 percent of executives anticipating personnel additions.
  • The legal field is again expected to see the strongest hiring, with a net 23 percent of respondents planning to increase staff levels, although this number is down from 31 percent in the third-quarter survey.
  • Nearly half of executives(3) (47 percent) said it is challenging to find skilled professionals today.


The Robert Half Professional Employment Report is the first quarterly executive survey of its size and scope to focus exclusively on professional-level hiring. The survey is based on telephone interviews with more than 4,000 executives(4) from a variety of fields throughout the United States about their hiring plans and general level of optimism regarding the upcoming quarter.


"Companies that overextended their teams are now selectively adding full-time employees," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half. "Businesses are hiring to keep service levels high and boost morale among existing team members who have taken on extra work in the past few years."

Messmer added, "Despite high unemployment rates, executives expressed concern about their ability to find employees with the requisite skills for open positions. An increasing number of firms are bringing in interim staff to access specific expertise for key projects and keep personnel costs variable until they can resume full-time hiring."

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Region

Survey results indicate that executives in the South Atlantic region project the most active hiring, with a net 9 percent of hiring authorities expecting to add staff. The hiring environment in the South Atlantic states is improving across a variety of industries and positions.

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Industry

Executives in the business services sector anticipate the most professional-level hiring in the fourth quarter, with a net 16 percent anticipating increases in personnel levels. The projection for this sector is up seven points from the third-quarter survey, the highest quarter-over-quarter increase among all industries.

Professional-Level Hiring -- By Field

For the third consecutive quarter, respondents in the legal profession forecast the strongest hiring activity of all fields, with 29 percent of lawyers projecting staff increases and 6 percent anticipating declines.

"There's no question that 2010 has been – and continues to be – the year for litigation, bankruptcy and foreclosure firms," noted Brett Good, a Robert Half senior district president.  "We don't see any signs indicating a slowdown in these areas for the foreseeable future, as case backlogs, the housing market and overall unemployment rates continue to be concerns.  Labor and employment and intellectual property are also seeing growth.  Firms specializing in these growing practice areas are seeking staff ranging from associate attorneys and contract administrators to paralegals and legal secretaries to manage larger case loads and client requirements."

About Robert Half

Founded in 1948, Robert Half, the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm, is a recognized leader in professional staffing services. The company's specialized staffing divisions include Accountemps®, Robert Half® Finance & Accounting and Robert Half® Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively, in the fields of accounting and finance; OfficeTeam®, for highly skilled temporary administrative support personnel; Robert Half® Technology, for information technology professionals; Robert Half® Legal, for legal personnel; and The Creative Group®, for advertising, marketing and web professionals. Robert Half has staffing and consulting operations in more than 400 locations worldwide. Find more information about our services at roberthalf.us, and follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf.

(1) Net percentages are the percentage of executives projecting increases in full-time employees minus the percentage expecting decreases.

(2) DE, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV

(3) Respondents to this question included a total of more than 3,500 CFOs, CIOs, attorneys, and advertising and marketing executives.

(4) Survey respondents included more than 1,400 chief financial officers (CFOs); 1,400 chief information officers (CIOs); 500 senior human resources managers; 100 attorneys at law firms and 100 corporate attorneys; and 125 advertising executives and 375 marketing executives within the United States who have hiring authority.


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