BY MIKE HOCKETT
News about the decreasing rate of national unem- ployment is encouraging, though in the manu- facturing sector, it’s been offset by a skilled labor
shortage that many think will continue to grow over the
next few years.
At least in industrial distribution, the labor numbers are
promising (Figure 3, page 35). As they
did the last three years, more than 50
percent of respondents – 52.9 percent
to be exact this year – said they have
added staff in the last 12 months.
That’s even a bit higher than last survey’s 52.1 percent, and a stark contrast
from our 2009 survey when 68 percent
said they had to reduce staff and 18
percent foresaw a need to do so in
the coming year. With the recession
now six years in the past, distribution
employment has increased ever since.
The number who had to reduce staff
in the last 12 months was the same
as last year’s 14 percent, while the
amount who anticipate reducing staff
gained 1 point. That coincides with
the number who anticipate the need
to add staffing dipping 2 points.
To no surprise, staff additions
(Figure 2) were heavily in sales (65
percent), a figure that has steadily
decreased from 73 percent in 2011. In
fact, 51 percent of respondents said
they now have more sales reps than
they did last year. That’s a 10 point
gain from last year’s survey. Only 10
percent this year said they have fewer
sales reps, while 39 percent said they
have the same — down 9 points from a
year ago. This shows distributors have
put a definite priority on beefing up
their sales teams. Warehousing staff
additions were second at 40 percent,
down 4 points from a year ago. The
next top additions were to Customer
Support ( 32 percent) and Operations
( 29 percent). Operations saw a 6 point
jump from last year. Administration
additions ( 19 percent) saw a 5 point
jump, while Clerical additions ( 9 percent) remained the same. The overall
close similarities show year-to-year
confidence in economic stability.
For the small portion of respondents who had to reduce staff in the past year, it was mostly either in Warehousing ( 32 percent) or Clerical ( 31 percent). The drop in
Warehousing isn’t surprising given the continuing rise of
automation. Nearly identical to last year, 97 percent of
respondents said they value hiring technical trained employees for open positions, with 61 percent in the “High
Value” portion (+ 2 points from last year).
In terms of your ability to qualify and recruit,
where would you place your business on the
If you have added staff, to which job
categories were the additions made?