Three Surveys Show Economic Confidence Is On The Rise

New surveys this week are stoking optimism that the worst of the worst recession in (insert your choice of years here) really may be behind us.

The Conference Board, which issues some of the most watched economic indicators in the U.S., reported that consumer confidence jumped 14 percent between July and August. The Index, which hit a low of 26.9 in March, has more than doubled since then and now stands at 54.1. It’s still slightly below the 54.8 posted in May, but the rise was considerably greater than the 47.9 economists had expected, according to Bloomberg News.

Employers mirrored that confidence in a CareerBuilder / Robert Half survey that said 53 percent of businesses polled plan to hire full-time workers in 2010. The Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations Report prepared by the two companies found 40 percent of employers planning to hire temporary or contract workers and 39 percent expecting to hire part-time workers.

The report, which has been issued annually for the last five years, found that the positions first to be filled will be in technology, customer service, and sales. Also on the list are positions in marketing/creative, business development, human resources, and accounting/finance.

Most the hires will be either entry-level (say 28 percent of the hiring managers surveyed) or staff-level professionals (32 percent). The traits most valued in a new hire? Employers cited multitasking, initiative, and creative problem-solving.

“Companies already are identifying the key skill sets they will need in new hires to take advantage of the opportunities presented by improving economic conditions,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “Firms that cut staffing levels too deeply may need to do significant rebuilding once the recovery takes hold.”

Perhaps anticipating the recovery, perhaps because so many companies have already made cuts, employers are throttling back on layoffs, says outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“We see more and more signs that the economy is beginning to turn around. While it is too soon to expect a massive hiring binge that will move some of the nearly 20 million jobless Americans back onto payrolls, the pace of job cuts is likely to continue its downward trend,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

In January 241,749 job cuts were announced, the highest since January 2002, according to the firm, which has tracked planned layoff announcements daily since 1993. But the announced job cuts have been declining since.

The August numbers are still being counted, but the firm said it expects the four-month total from May through August to be significantly lower than the 711,100 it counted from January through April.

“Year-end job cuts are likely to increase from the levels recorded during the summer months, which typically see fewer job cuts, but we will probably not return to the levels reached between January and April,” says Challenger. “Job cuts are expected to continue the overall downward trend in 2010, when we might actually begin to see some small improvements in hiring.”

The Wall Street Journal reported this month in its Economic Forecasting Survey that economists expect, on average, the economy to lose just under 27,000 jobs a month next year. While not exactly a recovery, it’s a huge change from the 70,000 monthly job loss they predicted in July.

However, if you actually count the number of economists who predict that jobs will either not be lost or will actually be added, the number is slightly larger than those who predict continued job losses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its employment report for August next week, Sept. 4th, just in time for the Labor Day weekend.

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