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Improving jobs picture a double-edged sword

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A brightening employment picture is good news for job seekers and potential trouble for employers who want to hold on to their talented staff this year, according to new surveys.

Canadian employers continue to report plans for job growth across most industries and the trend is expected to continue through at least the first half of the year, according to two new surveys. However, a third poll suggests the vast majority of employees will be open to a chance to jump ship.

A survey of 227 Canadian companies by Harris Interactive for job site found that 45 per cent of the companies expect to increase their work force in the next six months, which is up from 19 per cent at this time last year. And 59 per cent of companies expect to increase capital spending, with an eye to spurring growth.

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In another survey of chief executives of the largest U.S. companies, including many with Canadian operations, twice as many companies said they were planning to hire now than at the beginning of last year. The Business Roundtable, however, cited concern about cost pressures for materials, payrolls and health care as reasons they might not hire as many as they would like.

They're likely to find eager job candidates, according to another survey by job-placement firm Manpower, which found that 84 per cent of U.S. employees are considering looking for a new position in 2011. That's up from just 60 per cent last year.

Most employees have been sitting tight through the recession, not even considering other jobs because so few firms were hiring. But after years of increased work and frozen compensation, "a lot of people will be looking because they're disappointed with their current jobs," said Douglas Matthews, president and chief operating officer for staffing service Right Management, a division of Manpower.

It's a warning to employers, he added: "This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover."

Opportunities to move should be widespread in Canada, predicted Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America.

"Our survey results and an increase in job posting activity point to continued, steady job growth in 2011," with 32 per cent saying they plan to hire full-time permanent employees, he said. And 51 per cent said they will initially hire on contract or part-time positions with the possibility to turn the jobs into full time if the economy improves.

Customer service is the top functional area for which employers say they will be recruiting in 2011 as they focus on expanding their customer base and share of the consumer wallet, Mr. Rasmussen said.

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Other specialties cited as being in high demand are information technology, administration, marketing, sales research and engineering.

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