A recent survey paints a gloomy picture of hiring trends for the next 12 months, but the outlook might be brighter in Chattanooga.
"I think that we continue to see slow but incremental growth," Kevin Green, with Chattanooga's Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of staffing agency Robert Half International, said.
According to a November Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey, U.S. small business leaders predict they will add fewer net jobs in the coming 12 months than any time since the worst part of the recession in 2008-09.
Hiring intentions fell by 4 points after they had been up 10 points in July, also according to the survey.
Twenty-one percent of business owners said they expect to decrease jobs in the next year, and that's the most since the start of the index in 2003.
Only 17 percent of small business owners said they plan to hire people in the coming year. That's down from 20 percent in July 2012. It's the lowest since November 2011, according to Gallup.
"Whether the pessimism of the nation's small business owners is due to the fiscal cliff, Superstorm Sandy, the election or some combination of these factors, the U.S. economy remains weak, and unemployment remains high from a historical perspective," Dennis Jacobe wrote in the Gallup Economy report. "A further sharp increase in small business layoffs, resulting in higher unemployment on top of the current economic conditions, could turn today's slow-growing U.S. economy into something worse."
But Green said that recent Bureau of Labor numbers show marginal increases. The unemployment rate dropped in November to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent in October, but the actual number of unemployed people didn't change much, according to the most recent jobs report.
And there is an increasing demand for skilled jobs, Green said.
According to a recent Robert Half International report, more companies are hiring, and there were 2.6 million job openings in August 2012. That's a 50 percent increase since the end of the recession in 2009.
So it's a tale of two job markets—there's one market in which people with lower education levels are more broadly unemployed and another in which there is a need for workers with specialized skills.
"Employers in general are finding consistent challenges in hiring professional-level talent," Green said. "That market is very robust. What we are seeing is still a very strong demand for that."