What the Current State of the Economy Means for HR

Paul Hamerman By Paul Hamerman

Current US labor data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ces/) shows that the monthly rate of job losses appears to have bottomed in January 2009 and is on a road to recovery. The trendline seems to suggest that job losses will reverse and turn to job growth by the first half of 2010. Cause for optimism? Not yet.

I had the privilege to attend a conference keynote presentation a couple of weeks ago (TaleoWorld, Las Vegas) by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor and noted economics professor. He emphasized that what we are looking at for 2010 is a “jobless recovery” where the economic indicators improve, but unemployment remains high – close to 10%. These statistics don’t recognize that many people that are under-employed, taking whatever jobs they could get to pay the bills. Even if we don’t see near-term jobs growth, the trend toward stabilization of employment is good news nonetheless.


Positive indicators are appearing, but major increases in hiring are unlikely in the near term, as the economy slowly recovers. HR professionals will undoubtedly be asked to do more, but with limited resources. Still, with the right technology, HR can create the leverage to provide high value employee services, extending the reach and accessibility of HR processes and services.


HR must work at aligning talent and workforce needs to the business, as the economy pulls itself back together. This calls for some thoughtful long-range planning about how talent makes the business perform better. Near term, companies should invest in technology to develop and retain the best talent and to recruit talent more effectively as hiring needs develop.