If you hope to land a job in the next three months, where in the country will you find the most vibrant employment scene? According to the just-released Employment Outlook Survey from Milwaukee-based staffing giant Manpower MAN -0.46% Group, the No. 1 spot is Boise Boise, Idaho, followed by Jacksonville, Grand Rapids, and Milwaukee. At the other end of the spectrum, the slowest growth is expected in Oklahoma City, Youngstown, and El Paso El Paso. See our slideshow above for the top five and bottom five cities projecting net job growth in 2015’s second quarter. You can read Manpower’s complete report here.
Each quarter Manpower surveys employers about whether they plan to add or cut jobs, keep employment levels the same, or haven’t yet decided. In the Boise area, a net 32% of companies plan to hire new staff in the second quarter of 2015. That compares with a net 22% of U.S. employers who expect to add to their workforces next quarter. All of the cities measured by Manpower have a positive hiring outlook for the coming quarter, compared to the first quarter of 2014 when there were still cities with a negative outlook, like Buffalo at -3%. Buffalo has climbed to 17th place, with a net outlook of 15%.
To gauge companies’ hiring plans, Manpower surveyed 18,000 employers across the country, gathering data in the top 100 metro areas. It used a research firm that quizzed hiring managers and human resource professionals by phone and email over the first two weeks of January. Manpower asked one multiple-choice question about companies’ plans for the second quarter of 2015: How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the next three months to the end of June 2015, as compared to the current quarter? Companies could choose four answers: Increase staff. Reduce staff. Keep staff levels the same. Unsure. Then Manpower crunched the numbers and came up with a “net employment outlook.” The survey is a rough measure, since it doesn’t count the number of jobs employers plan to add or subtract, but simply asks whether they plan to hire or fire.
The good news is that the survey shows a steadily strengthening job market. “For some time, U.S. employers have been experiencing incremental increases in demand for goods and services despite ongoing uncertainty in global economies,” said ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising in a statement. “Although growth remains modest, employers believe it is sustainable, and that confidence is reflected in their hiring plans. We’re seeing the rising tide of the economy extend broadly across geographies and sectors, which is positively impacting the labor market.”
In the strongest market, Boise, you can see growth wherever you turn, says Sunny Ackerman, vice president for Manpower’s western division. Among those companies that have recently moved into Boise or are expanding existing operations and hiring more workers: Woodland, CA CA -0.29%-based Gayle Manufacturing, a structural steel manufacturer, which is bringing on 100 workers and Diversified Fluid Systems, which makes chemical blending and distribution systems, and is planning to hire 50-60 employees. SkyWest SKYW 0% Airlines, based in St. George, UT, is building a new maintenance facility in Boise and hiring more than 100 people. Established employers like HP, which manufactures laser jet printers in Boise, and Boise-based semiconductor maker Micron Technology are both hiring, says Ackerman.
The workforce in Boise is diverse, she says, with plenty of highly-skilled employees. The presence of Gowen Field Air National Guard Base means there are quite a few military spouses ready to work and when service people become civilians, they enter the workforce with strong skills. Another growth area in Boise: call centers, where wages can range from $14.50 to $18.50 an hour. Given that Boise’s cost of living is some 5% lower than the national average, according to salary ranking site PayScale, those salaries can stretch further than in a more expensive urban area like New York or San Francisco. “Once you set foot in Boise, you can literally see the growth,” says Ackerman. Boise’s employment outlook has jumped 10 points since the first quarter of 2015 when it was 22%.
The No. 2 city on the list, Jacksonville, has also vaulted ahead, though not quite at the same velocity as Boise. From 20% in Q1, it’s moved up eight points to a 30% net employment outlook. During the Great Recession of 2008, Jacksonville experienced a housing bust. But the city has come back, says Manpower regional sales executive Richard Ceniza. “The best job prospects we’re seeing are in construction,” he says. Other growth areas: durable goods, transportation, utilities, and wholesale and retail trade. At the St. John’s Tower Center shopping center, which houses a bustling Apple store, new retailers have been opening, including Nordstrom. Another shopping center, River City Marketplace, near the Jacksonville airport, has also been adding jobs. Jacksonville is home to several manufacturers of retail golf carts and to growing JAXPORT, the Jacksonville port authority. All of that growth has flowed over into call centers, health care facilities and insurance companies.
At the other end of the spectrum is Oklahoma City, with the lowest employment outlook of all 50 cities. That’s due to the slowdown in the energy sector, which has a ripple effect throughout the rest of the economy, according to Manpower Regional Vice President Steven Clay. The city is a major hub for oil and gas and production has been declining since the fourth quarter of last year. “We deal with this all the time,” he says. “When oil prices are up, things are great, and when they’re down we see the layoffs that come with it. You’re probably looking at a year of this stuff.” Clay doesn’t want to name names of companies letting workers go, but Chesapeake, Continental Energy, Exxon and Devon Energy have slimmed down their staff. “Everybody is having layoffs right now,” he says. On the other hand, there is growth in logistics and call centers. Still, since January initial claims for unemployment have increased by 36% over the same period last year. “It’s a very cyclical business,” he says. “We ride it down and we ride it back up.”
Despite relative weakness in come pockets, overall the hiring outlook news is good heading into Q2. “We’ve still got momentum,” says Manpower’s Chris Layden, who runs a division called Expiris, which places professionals. “We came out of the first quarter very strong and I think that momentum is going to continue at the macro level. The piece we’re still missing is for anticipatory hiring to continue. We’re still not seeing what we saw six or seven years ago. We still have volatility. It’s part of the new normal.”