Even as the United States’ economy slows, employers are having almost as hard a time finding the right candidates as job-seekers are having finding the right jobs, according to a study produced by Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com.

More than half of employers surveyed reported that it’s difficult to find skilled professionals today, according to the fourth annual Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations Report. More than half of job-seekers told surveyors it’s just as tough to find a job. On a one-to-five sliding scale, employees rated the difficulty of finding a job at 3.56, while employers rated the difficulty of finding qualified candidates at 3.47.

Among other findings of the study conducted by the big staffing firm and employment site:

— Nearly two-thirds of workers are more likely to try to negotiate a better compensation package as inflation ratchets up in the U.S.

— Companies name a lack of qualified workers and the higher cost of gasoline and commuting as the main reasons for their difficulty in recruiting skilled labor.

— To fill the recruitment gap, more companies likely will offer their employees bridge jobs and consulting arrangements as an alternative to retirement.

— It takes four to 14 weeks to fill open positions, with the more senior-level jobs taking the longest time to fill.

— More than half of hiring managers (56 percent) said that Generation Y employees (the under-30 set) are the hardest to hire, perhaps because of high expectations over pay, career advancement, flexible schedules and overall work environment.

— The sluggish economy has made it easier to find skilled help in certain sectors, but some segments of the labor market, such as accounting and technology, still face a shortage of highly skilled professionals. “A dual hiring environment seems to be taking shape,” said Max Messmer, Robert Half’s chairman and CEO. “Job-seekers in some fields are competing aggressively for open positions, giving employers the edge in those segments of the hiring market. At the same time, however, in-demand workers may not be willing to leave secure positions unless firms extend very attractive job offers.”

— More companies are willing to pay top dollar for top candidates. And the more desirable employees are demanding better pay and perks. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of hiring managers said they’re willing to negotiate compensation when they do find qualified professionals. Nineteen percent said they are “very” willing. “Businesses are operating on leaner resources and are competing to secure the intellectual capital that will drive productivity and new revenue streams,” said Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder’s CEO. “Recruiting highly skilled professionals may require a greater financial commitment or special perks that provide a more attractive work environment, however. Nearly three-quarters of employees surveyed said the availability of flexible schedules may cause them to choose one job over another.”

The survey, conducted in May, is based on responses from more than 500 hiring managers and 500 workers.


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