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Employers expect to add new jobs in the New Year, but are waiting to see how the economy shapes up before turning up the volume on hiring, according to CareerBuilder s annual job forecast. Nearly 25 percent of hiring managers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, similar to 2011. Employment trends among small businesses, which account for the majority of job creation in the United States, are expected to show some improvement over last year.

Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of employers surveyed plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in 2012, relatively unchanged from 24 percent for 2011 and up from 20 percent for 2010. Seven percent expect to decrease headcount, the same as for 2011 and an improvement from 9 percent for 2010. Fifty-nine percent anticipate no change in their staff levels while 11 percent are unsure. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive from Nov. 9 to Dec. 5, included more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

Historically, our surveys have shown that employers are more conservative in their predictions than actual hiring, said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. Barring any major economic upsets, we expect 2012 to bring a better hiring picture than 2011, especially in the second half of the year. Many companies have been operating lean and have already pushed productivity limits. We re likely to see gradual improvements in hiring across categories as companies respond to increased market demands.

Small businesses are reporting more confidence in both hiring and retaining headcount in 2012. Plans to downsize dropped two percentage points across small business segments while plans to hire increased two percentage points among companies with 50 or fewer employees. Among those companies, 16 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff in 2012, up from 14 percent for 2011, and those reducing headcount fell from five percent for 2011 to three percent for 2012.

Among businesses with 250 employees or fewer, 20 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff, up from 19 percent for 2011; those reducing headcount fell from six percent for 2011 to four percent for 2012. For companies with 500 or fewer employees, 21 percent plan to add full-time, permanent staff, on par with 2011; those reducing headcount fell from 6 percent for 2011 to 4 percent for 2012. Among functional areas where human resource managers anticipate there will be the greatest increases in compensation at their organizations in 2012 are those tied to revenue generation, including sales (24 percent of human resource managers), information technology (20 percent), engineering (14 percent) and business development (14 percent).

The survey indicated there is an increasing number of areas where demand for skilled positions is growing much faster than supply, prompting employers to take re-skilling workers into their own hands. Thirty-eight percent plan to train people who don t have experience in their particular industry and hire them for positions within their organizations in 2012.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Hiring Outlook for 2012 Remains Cautiously Optimistic: CareerBuilder