Moderated by Rick Badie

A recent survey finds most Atlanta corporate chief financial officers optimistic about third-quarter growth, so much so they’re hiring. Today, a staffing executive explains that the “Help Wanted signs” seek applicants with specific skills. Though hiring is on the uptick, a nonprofit executive worries about households under financial distress.

Job market hot for skilled professionals

By Andy Decker

Just as the weather warms up in Atlanta, the job market is hot for highly skilled professionals, especially in finance and information technology. Demand for certain specialized positions is already exceeding supply. The leading Atlanta indicators, such as manufacturing and construction job growth, suggest this trend will continue.

Despite what may be perceived as a high general unemployment rate (8.2 percent statewide in April), professionals with experience in business intelligence and strategy, financial analysis and .Net development fit what have proved to be hard-to-fill roles for hiring managers. With a 3.8 percent unemployment rate for professionals 25 and older with a college degree, these specialists are receiving multiple job offers, and counteroffers from their current employers to encourage them to stay.

Three years ago, companies weren’t refilling vacancies. Today, firms are plugging holes and adding positions. Seventy-two percent of chief financial officers in the Atlanta area are planning to hire for roles opening during the next three months, according to the third-quarter Atlanta Professional Employment Forecast by Robert Half, a specialized staffing firm. An additional 12 percent of those interviewed expect to create new professional-level positions in the third quarter, in line with what they reported in the second-quarter survey.

For the third quarter of 2013, executives said they are optimistic and confident about growth prospects, which have the potential to lead to additional opportunities for job seekers with in-demand skills.

For the best and brightest candidates, firms need to be prepared to move fast and extend competitive job offers. Benefits and perks — such as telecommuting and flex hours — can also go a long way in attracting stellar staff in this commuter-heavy market. It’s also important to be aware of factors leading to turnover and re-evaluate compensation for critical employees to ensure they are being paid fairly based on current rates, as opposed to when they were hired during the downturn.

More candidates seem willing to accept long-term interim and project assignments, as opposed to only considering full-time roles. This can offer increased flexibility for hiring managers and professionals and be a conduit for full-time hiring.

Those pursing a new job or career should keep in mind that referrals are critical. Leverage your network to make sure your connections know you are looking. Partner with a recruiter specializing in your field who can present career options best suited for your skills and needs.

During a career transition, find ways to stay marketable, and keep your technical and soft skills current, such as by volunteering with a nonprofit organization or taking on temporary work. In your resume, use key words from the job posting, as long as they match your experience, to ensure it is picked up by pre-screening software. Quantify your achievements as much as possible.

Summer is upon us, but companies don’t appear to be taking a vacation from hiring. Job seekers shouldn’t stop searching, either.

Andy Decker is a senior regoinal vice president in Atlanta for Robert Half, a staffing firm.

Financial distress lingers in Georgia

By Phil Baldwin

Doesn’t it feel like the good times are back? The stock market is setting records. Job growth is picking up, and you may have even received a pay raise in the past couple of months.

Many of us are certainly better off than we were just two or three years ago. Then, metro Atlanta unemployment exceeded 9 percent, foreclosure rates were among the highest in the nation, and housing construction was nonexistent.

We’ve recovered from the worst part of The Great Recession, but don’t be fooled. The average household in metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia continues the daily battle to make ends meet. Progress has been slow; according to our quarterly CredAbility Consumer Distress Index, people remain in financial distress.

A prime example is Jackie “Jewel” Brown. In 2005, Brown bought a house in Duluth and five years ago opened Hair by Jewel, a hair salon in Norcross. Brown was making her house and business rent payments for years, but recently ran into trouble.

Her 2000 Mitsubishi fell apart, forcing her to get another car and a new monthly payment. Some clients lost jobs and moved out of state, so she cut prices at the salon. But she’s fallen behind on her mortgage payments, so Brown is working now with CredAbility to try to qualify for the federal government’s Home Affordable Mortgage Program. This will give her a lower monthly payment and avoid the threat of foreclosure.

Households across the state saved only 2 percent of their incomes in 2013’s first quarter, largely due to the increase in Social Security taxes. As usual, low- and moderate-income families have been hurt more than most. Roughly 915,000 Georgia households, or about 20 percent of the state, receive food stamps, a 5.5 percent rise from a year ago.

Still, there’s no doubt that there are signs for optimism. The unemployment rate and the number of households behind on their mortgage payments continue to nudge down each month. The credit profile of Georgians is stronger than it’s been in years, meaning more people are paying their bills on time. And the net worth of the average metro Atlanta family is at its highest point since 2008.

But I’m concerned about the future for several reasons. Many people we counsel have jobs, but they earn less money compared to the job they held before they were laid off. Many are 50 years old and older; they just want to pay their bills and hang on until they can qualify for Social Security and Medicare. These families have little savings, which means it’s unlikely that they will be able to afford to retire.

Experts predict metro Atlanta will add 40,000 new jobs this year. Let’s hope these new jobs will help those most in need, and that we can lift the average household out of financial distress sooner rather than later.

Phil Baldwin is president and CEO of CredAbility.

 

3 comments Add your comment

Q

June 26th, 2013
5:17 pm

I agree, SAWB. AJC—please don’t bury this blog. I read it every day, though I don’t usually comment. The issues that are discussed here are important and impact our daily lives.

SAWB

June 26th, 2013
2:37 pm

So, why has this blog been pushed off the AJC.com main page? I mean we can easily find blogs discussing the merits of photographing yourself breastfeeding, but the one that discuses real issues impacting our community you sort of have to look for.

SAWB

June 26th, 2013
10:26 am

One of the big issues facing many people is the lack of adequate savings. A person should not be forced into a significant negative financial position because of car trouble. The use of a more formal budget allows people to see where their money is going and assure that money goes into savings each month.