A Perfect Storm is Brewing for Workforce Managers

Sebastian Junger’s novel (and the George Clooney-Hollywood adaptation) the Perfect Storm chronicles the demise of the sword fishing boat Andrea Gail. The Andrea Gail and her crew, under the command of Captain Billy Tyne (played by Clooney in the movie) steamed out of Gloucester harbor, far into the North Atlantic in search of a bounty of swordfish.  Their vessel was ultimately swallowed by the sea at the center of an unprecedented convergence of meteorological conditions that collaborated to produce a storm of epic proportions –a “perfect”storm if you will.

If I were an operations executive or an HR practice leader today, I would be feeling a bit like Captain Billy Tyne. Looking at the horizon today, a trained eye can see the contours of a perfect storm beginning to perhaps take shape. This storm may portend the long-awaited and ephemeral jobs recovery that American business has been waiting for since 2008’s global recession.  What are the specific elements we can see converging to form a potential perfect storm in workforce planning waters?

On a single page at Staffing Industry Analysts, on a single news day, we found the following indicators of a resurgent employment picture.

From the U.S. Department of Labor: The US four-week moving average of initial claims for unemployment insurance last week fell by 3,000 to a total of 281,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 284,000, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released today. This is the lowest level for this average since May 6, 2000, when it was 279,250. The four-week moving average decreases the volatility of the weekly numbers. Total initial claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended Oct. 18 rose by 17,000 to a total of 283,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised figure of 266,000.

From MarketWatch:
Reports say, near historical low levels of initial claims reflecting the small number of layoffs taking place in the economy.

From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Median earnings of full-time workers rise 2.5% in Q3.

From Robert Half’s 2015 Salary Guide:
Starting salaries to rise 3% for legal jobs.

From a Korn Ferry survey:
71% of all US employers plan salary increases for 2015.

From the Conference Board:
US leading index returns to growth in September.

After several years of spotty growth in isolated sectors, talk of “green shoots”and many other false positives, it does seem that the return to a robust economic growth vector is being confirmed.  With many of the indicators all pointing in the same direction, it would be wise for those responsible for HR and workforce planning to prepare for what may be just over the horizon. Along with staying abreast of the trends, look to our ebook, “Sourcing Strategies” for practices that can potentially be implemented in this time of change.

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