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The Business Journal surveyed the North Bay’s largest staffing companies plus jobs and economic forecaster TrimTabs Investment Research in Santa Rosa for their outlook on 2011.

Alkar Human ResourcesJason Lewis, controller

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? I expect employment next year in the Sonoma-Marin-Napa area to be relatively flat, with a maximum uptick of 2 percent to 3 percent. California will continue to lag behind the rest of the United States, and I think that the chances of a wide-spread double-dip recession are negligible. However, some sectors will see no growth or sustained contraction due to past over-production.

2. Where do you think growth will be? Growth will be primarily in the clerical, hospitality and professional sectors. The construction, finance and winery sectors will continue to suffer from high levels of inventory and will continue to face pricing pressures until the over-supply is reduced.

Kreuzberger AssociatesNeil Kreuzberger, president and founder

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? We are seeing gradual improvement across many industry sectors, even in some areas focused in real estate. Still, companies appear cautious and mindful of expense management and risk considerations. While equity markets report robust numbers and holiday consumer spending is looking strong, the underlying economy continues to rebound rather slowly.

2. Where do you think growth will be? Growth in Northern California is being led by technology companies and financial services. Technology, including new technology focused on green solutions, rebounded first. Now we’re seeing strong indicators that financial services firms are hiring, especially in the regulatory compliance and risk management arenas. We also expect to see firms using more contract hiring to supplement or backfill their full-time staffing requirements.

3. Is there anything you would like to add? After two years of dampened expectations, we believe the worst is over. However, we don’t expect unemployment to change precipitously or significantly until market demand for goods and services shows a consistent positive trend. Our firm is in this area and in this business for the long run, so we have stayed extra close to our clients and the many candidates in our network through the downturn.  We hear anecdotal stories about good outcomes every day, so we are optimistic that increased hiring and job opportunities will continue to develop over the next year.

Manpower Inc.

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? Reporting the most optimistic hiring expectations in more than two years, U.S. employers anticipate small staffing gains for Quarter 1 2011, according to the seasonally adjusted results of the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly by Manpower Inc.  The adjusted Outlook for Quarter 1 2011 is +9 percent, up from +5 percent  during the same period last year and +5 percent during Quarter 4 2010. Despite positive signals, the Quarter 1 2011 Outlook is nearly five percentage points below the average Outlook from 2001 to 2010.

Employers in 11 of the 13 industry sectors surveyed have a positive Outlook for Quarter 1 2011: Leisure & Hospitality (+12 percent), Professional & Business Services (+11 percent), Information (+10 percent), Wholesale & Retail Trade (+10 percent), Mining (+6 percent), Durable Goods Manufacturing (+6 percent), Nondurable Goods Manufacturing (+6 percent), Education & Health Services (+6 percent), Other Services (+4 percent), Financial Activities (+4 percent) and Transportation & Utilities (+2 percent).

The January – March 2011 Outlook is negative in the Construction (-9 percent) industry, while Government (0 percent) hiring is expected to be flat. Employers in two industry sectors, Mining and Wholesale & Retail Trade, expect their hiring pace to decrease compared to the previous quarter, while those in three industry sectors, Information, Education & Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality, anticipate staff levels picking up. Hiring plans are relatively stable in the remaining industry sectors.

Compared to one year ago, employers in all four U.S. geographic regions surveyed anticipate an increased pace of hiring. Employers in the Midwest and South have the most optimistic view, with a Net Employment Outlook of +10 percent. The Outlook is +9 percent for employers in the Northeast and +7 percent for those in the West.

Nelson StaffingCraig Nelson, executive vice president

1.  What is the outlook for employment for 2011? The unemployment rate in California will drop, but not by much. We anticipate that the decrease will be in the range of half a point to one point. In the case of the temporary employment market, however, we expect it to grow by 10 percent to 12 percent. The growth will vary based on region. For example, in the North Bay, growth will occur largely in manufacturing and clerical/administrative positions; whereas in the South Bay, finance and accounting and information technology positions will lead the charge.

2.             Where do you think growth will be? Growth will be focused in the technology sector, specifically information technology roles in IT companies.  Production jobs and professional services such as finance and accounting will also be on the rise.  What is indicated is an overall growth of 12 percent in the temporary staffing arena for 2011. When it comes to executive recruitment, the growth will be more like 25 percent to 30 percent as companies outsource their recruitment in order to entice the very best, hard-to-find candidates to come to work for them.

Robert Half InternationalMichael Lusby, regional vice president

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? As we head into 2011, employers are expressing cautious optimism about their hiring plans for the New Year. According to our recently released Robert Half Professional Employment Report, 90 percent of California executives surveyed expressed confidence in their organization’s growth prospects for the first quarter of 2011.

Organizations that were operating with compressed teams during the recession are now looking to bring in skilled professionals on a temporary or project basis to relieve their overworked teams. Similarly, companies that are seeing push-through in their budgets for 2011 are looking to back fill open positions to accommodate anticipated growth in the coming year.

Renewed business activity is prompting hiring managers to make strategic hires within their departments. Companies looking to add staff in the coming year are taking the time to find individuals with diverse skill sets who can perform a broad range of tasks and job responsibilities.

2.   Where do you think growth will be? According to our Professional Employment Report, a net 8 percent of California executives plan to hire in the first quarter of the New Year. The professional services, construction and manufacturing industries are expected to see the most growth in the first quarter.

In the North Bay specifically, we’re seeing an increase in demand for positions within the financial services sector. Positions in accounting and finance such as business systems analysts, staff/senior accountants and financial analysts are poised to see some growth in 2011. Additionally, we’re also seeing gains in the manufacturing, property management, construction and food and beverage industries.

3.    Is there anything you would like to add? There’s a lot more optimism among hiring managers than in years past. Companies want to hire. As the economy begins to regain its foothold, we anticipate an uptick in hiring as more and more companies look at ways to market themselves to attract new candidates and retain key team members.

Star StaffingNicole Smartt, vice president

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? I think the economy and the job market will experience slow but steady growth in 2011. Unfortunately, unemployment will remain high. Most of the jobs lost, specifically in real estate, financial services and manufacturing, are not expected to come back. Concrete evidence remains elusive that temp jobs, a leading indicator of full-time, or “perm,” hiring will soon translate into robust job growth. This uncertain environment has been a godsend for Star Staffing; use of temporary or contract employees to smooth out labor needs has grown substantially. We continue to be up 200 percent year to date in sales.

2. Where do you think growth will be? The region’s growing medical device, pharmaceutical, high-tech, health care and tourism industries should contribute to the job market recovery.

TrimTabs Investment Research of Santa RosaMadeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic Research

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? Our outlook for national employment growth is based on our outlook for GDP growth in 2011.  We are looking for GDP growth of 2.5 to 3.0 percent, slightly better than Q3 2010, but not much.  That growth will translate into weak employment growth in the neighborhood of 75,000 to 125,000 new jobs per month, not enough to significantly reduce the unemployment rate.  We think the unemployment rate will be approximately 9 percent by the end of 2011.

2. Where do you think growth will be? Primarily temporary jobs, and jobs in high technology, energy and commodities, mining and minerals exploration, agriculture and agriculture related activities, and health care. Re: temporary jobs, it looks like just-in-time hiring is the new normal.

3.  Is there anything you would like to add? Economic growth will remain constrained in 2011+ due to the following factors:

1. Housing, which is responsible for approximatley 20 percent of GDP growth will remain mired in an ongoing depression well into 2012 if not beyond.  There are currently 7 million delinquent mortgages with another seven to 10 million mortgages at risk. There are 10.8 million homes that are underwater (homeowners own more than their home is worth).  New foreclosure filings are occurring at a rate of 300,000 every quarter and show no sign of slowing.  There are 6.2 million unsold homes (visible and shadow inventory), a 1.5 year supply.  Demand remains low due to high unemployment, and prices are still too high to clear the huge volume of unsold inventory due to artificial forces. Expediting the foreclosure process is politicial suicide and requiring banks to book the millions of non-performing loans would expose the fact that thousands of banks are insolvent.

In the past four weeks, mortgage interest rates on a 30-year mortgage have jumped nearly 80 basis points, further reducing demand.  If interest rates continue to increase, demand will fall further.

Without housing, economic growth is dependent on retail consumption (will probably remain weak without significant employment growth), government employment (see below), and non-housing related services (eg. transportation, finance and insurance, healthcare, etc.) which is also dependent to a large extent on consumption.

2. Demand for goods and services from the European Union will continue to decline as Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, now Belgium, along with the U.K., embark on severe austerity measures to align government expenditures with income.  It is unlikely that the financial situation in the Eurozone will improve, in fact it will probably deteriorate further in 2011.

3. Out-of-control government spending in the U.S. will continue to add to already huge deficits, requiring ever larger interest payments.  A tiny increase in short-term interest rates, translates into a huge increase in debt service payments.

4.  State and local governments continue to struggle with large budget gaps.  Without higher taxes, states and local government will be forced to lay off staff.  Since the beginning of 2010, state and local governments have laid off approx. 250,000 employees.

5. Consumers will continue to deleverage as they attempt to align incomes with current expenditures. There are 78 million baby boomers that just woke up to the fact that they have, on average, less than $50,000 saved for retirement and are increasing their savings rate at one of the fastest paces on record.

Volt Workforce SolutionsDawn Lesley, branch manager

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? We are making gradual positive strides towards making it out of the economic slump in Sonoma County.

2. Where do you think growth will be? The growth is likely to be in the tech industry and high-value manufacturing.

W.A. Hynes & Company Inc.Jane E. Hynes, president, CEO and co-founder

1. What is the outlook for employment for 2011? The outlook for temporary workers is excellent.  We have been through five recessions, and we have seen the demand for temporary workers precede the demand to direct (full time) personnel.  Perhaps the hiring companies are still uncertain about the economy, and if they need to downsize again it is quicker, easier and less costly with temporary workers.

2. Where do you think growth will be? We are seeing a lot of activity in the health insurance industry. As the new health care reform bill goes into effect, insurance companies are rushing to become compliant. This often requires new computer systems and, since we specialize in Information Technology (computer) professionals, we are seeing a significant increase in activity. We expect it to continue for the next several years.

3. Is there anything you would like to add? Although unemployment is still high, the number of available workers varies with the skill set. Employers need to understand that, at least when looking for highly skilled, computer professionals, they need to make hiring decisions quickly or the perfect resource will get another job offer and be gone. The market is heating up.