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Robert Half finds 13% planning to hire; but talent pool shrinkingNORTH BAY -- Despite flat or increasing unemployment rates across much of the state and the North Bay, the second quarter should see an increase in hires as recovery winds its way through numerous sectors, according to a report by Robert Half International.

Across the state, a net 13 percent of executives said they plan on hiring in the second quarter, with 85 percent of those surveyed expressing confidence about the prospect of growth, according to the Professional Employment Report, a nationwide quarterly outlook prepared by Robert Half.

And nationwide, more than 35 percent of C-level executives said finding qualified candidates was increasingly difficult, an indication that the talent pool is dwindling as people find suitable work, Robert Half Regional Vice President Michael Lusby said.

"The candidate pool is shrinking," he said.

The Pacific and South Atlantic regions both outpaced all but the Mountain region in projected hiring, with a net respective 10 percent and 9 percent of hiring managers indicating expansion was likely, the report said.

Throughout the North Bay, an increase in hiring has been experienced particularly in accounting and finance, marketing and advertising, and the legal field, according to Mr. Lusby. Additionally, many companies have begun to re-establish human resource functions, which are often eliminated along with marketing during economic downturns.

The legal field, which has seen growth in previous quarters, was expected again to lead the way in hires, with a net 29 percent of lawyers planning to increase staffing levels.

The advertising and marketing field saw the largest quarter-over-quarter rise in net projections, with a five-point increase, according to the report.

The rebounds in marketing and advertising stemmed from the increasing reliance on social media and the subsequent need for specialists in that field, Mr. Lusby said. In the legal sector, an increase of litigation, bankruptcy claims and foreclosures has generated a need of more staff.

In the accounting and finance sector, which hasn't seen the same pace of recovery, much of the hiring in the North Bay has been in the form of temporary staffing, particularly, Mr. Lusby said.

"In the second quarter, temp placement is doing extremely well, and we are seeing people in Q2 saying that is going to continue," Mr. Lusby said.

The banking industry in the North Bay has been slower to rebound than elsewhere, like in San Francisco or Los Angeles, Mr. Lusby said.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate dropped below 9 percent last week, and California's remained high at 12.4 percent. In Sonoma County, the rate increased over the last month, from 10 percent to 10.5 percent.

The U.S. economy added 158,000 jobs in January, according to a report from Sausalito-based TrimTabs Investment Research. However, those gains were negated by a number of factors, among them rising gasoline prices, declining home prices, and state and local governments facing massive budget shortfalls, which could lead to tax increases or layoffs.

"The good news is that the economy is increasing," said Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs. "The bad news is that the economy still needs government life support, and employment increases are not large enough to reduce the unemployment rate."

TrimTabs cautioned that "high structural unemployment is likely to plague the economy for years," and that 3 million to 4 million unemployed workers will need retraining before reentering the workforce.

Still, there are signs of a slow but steady turnaround: Sonoma County added 3,200 jobs over the year, and California added 12,500 new jobs in January. Sonoma County also saw continuous job growth beginning last November -- the first annual job growth for the county in three years, according to data released last week by California's Economic Development Board.

Mr. Lusby said the North Bay is seeing the effect of those numbers, with the business services, retail and manufacturing sectors all seeing improvements.

Out of 4,000 executives interviewed, 16 percent said they are looking to add full-time positions, the report said.