Hiring in the plastics industry is still “very static and lethargic” and the salaries being offered are down 3 to 5 percent from what they were at the beginning of the year, said Dennis Gros, president of Gros Executive Recruiters in Brentwood, Tennessee.
But he does not expect hiring to stay stagnant for long.
“The industry is like a spring ready to recoil. They are waiting for a signal that has not come yet,” Gros said in an interview at NPE2009, the International Plastics Showcase, which took place recently in Chicago.
“Most of the people I talked to at NPE are expecting a much better hiring picture in the second half of the year. They see some hiring in the third quarter and a lot in the fourth quarter. If that buzz maintains itself, it will be self-fulfilling,” said Gros, whose firm focuses exclusively on the plastics and packaging industries.
“Companies have their plans. They know what they want to do and are ready to hire. There is a real desire in the business community to move forward, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Gros said. “I am not pessimistic. We just need someone to throw the switch.”
In addition to the economic doldrums, he said legislative efforts to reform health care and a cap-and-trade system are causing companies to be hesitant.
“Those measures weigh heavily in company decisions to expand and hire because companies don’t know what their tax climate will be six months from now,” Gros said.
In addition, compared to nine months ago when the economic crash threw business into shock, he said companies are now into “the reality phase” when it comes to hiring workers.
“The reality is that the cash drawer is low, so they measure that investment closely before they make a decision to hire.”
Gros said the two most active areas of hiring have been in purchasing and sales, driven by a need “to save money and to make money.”
Despite the gloom hanging over hiring, a just-completed survey that Gros Executive Recruiters conducted in June for the Society of Plastics Engineers found that 91 percent of plastics professionals were either very confident or somewhat confident that their current job would exist 12 months from now.
By contrast, only 31 percent of managers in the plastics industry thought the number of full-time employees in their companies would stay the same in 2009, with more than 45 percent expecting a decrease in the number of full-time employees. An additional 17 percent expected full-time employment to grow in 2009.
Average compensation in 2008 was $101,834, compared with $103,705 in 2007, and the survey indicated that the average could dip again in the current year. Gros said some companies are taking advantage of the current hiring climate to “bring in people with a greater level of expertise at an affordable price.”
“Sometimes it is the exchange of one person for another,” Gros said. “It is a great time to shop for talent because they can pick and choose, and job candidates do not have much leverage to demand a high salary.”