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The Interview: Manpower's Andrew Francis expects a boost in 4Q hiring in Baltimore region

Hiring will likely continue at a slow pace through the end of the year, the job placement firm Manpower reported in its latest quarterly survey. Of the 18,000 employers who participated in the study, only 7 percent plan to expand their workforces.

But in the Baltimore region, Manpower says, the outlook is brighter.

Andrew Francis, branch manager of Manpower's new Baltimore office, talked recently with The Baltimore Sun about hiring expectations locally and what sets the region apart from much of the nation.

Manpower, which already had sites in Owings Mills, Columbia, Annapolis and at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, opened a downtown office over the summer.

Manpower's fourth-quarter survey shows a net hiring increase, on a seasonally adjusted basis, of 7 percent. That's up from 6 percent during the same period last year and down from 8 percent during the third quarter. How do the current results compare to the last few years?

It's showing a cautious hiring process. But on the positive side, we really have to go back three or four years before you see a downturn in the fourth quarter. In the last few years, we've been making gains every fourth quarter.

Has the Baltimore area followed national patterns in terms of employment outlook?

We've followed national trends for about the last 12 to 18 months, but here recently in the Mid-Atlantic region and areas such as the Towson/Baltimore areas, we're starting to move slightly ahead of the national survey. In our market, we're at a 13 percent increase [in expected net hiring]. That's compared to 7 percent nationally.

How strong is the 13 percent gain when compared to other cities?

There are places in America showing numbers of negative-4 [percent] and negative-5 percent; they're the worst. We're the third-best place to find a job going into the fourth quarter. San Antonio is one of the only cities ahead of us, at 17 percent, and Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla., is at 16 percent.

Why are job prospects expected to be better in the Baltimore area than in many regions?

I feel like Baltimore has a unique footprint. We're just very diversified in all kinds of businesses and industries, not focused on one area, with manufacturing, distribution, IT all here and financial and business services here. And there's a big medical industry here, with name-recognized facilities.

Which sectors are expected to be the strongest and weakest in the fourth quarter for the U.S. as a whole and for Baltimore in particular?

Wholesale and retail trade is high [in projected percentage gains], but I don't think it's as big of a story going into the fourth quarter. The bigger item here is that manufacturing of both durable and nondurable goods projects a combined 11 percent gain in the South [which includes Maryland]. And professional business services is at 11 percent in net employment outlook for the fourth quarter. The Baltimore numbers are going to follow those numbers.

How do you explain the projected increases in those sectors?

To a degree, some employers are feeling cautiously comfortable with hiring. A lot of manufacturers have not been holding onto large inventories and using a production-on-demand approach. So as more goods are purchased … the stockpiles of goods that used to be in warehouses are not there. They're producing on demand with the [holiday] retail season coming on. The manufacturing houses are going to have to ramp up activity.

What are your biggest challenges in filling jobs for employers?

While you have a huge talent pool, finding that one candidate that has every aspect of the skills, abilities and experience they're looking for is sometimes quite a challenge. [Job seekers] can't be detailed enough in listing their experiences and skill sets [on their resumes]. What we're finding is a lot of employers are still reluctant to backfill some positions … and companies are expecting more from their employees now.

One local company is looking for a production marketing manager. In the past, that would be a position that takes a product and works on it as far as branding it and taking it through a launch. Now they want the same product marketing manager to … come up with ideas of products on their own. It's a much expanded role.

What are some of the specific skills and positions that are in demand?

Some of the skilled jobs, the welders, the machinists, the higher level 'admins' and clerical jobs involving medical coding and medical billing, and highly specialized marketing project managers. Those positions are tough to fill.

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