If you hope to land a job in the next three months, where in the US will you find the most vibrant employment market? According to the just-released Employment Outlook Survey from Milwaukee-based staffing giant ManpowerGroup, the No. 1 spot is the Cape Coral “Metropolitan Statistical Area,” a city designation coined by the Office of Management and Budget. The Cape Coral MSA, on Florida’s west coast 160 miles from Miami, includes Fort Myers.
Manpower ranks the top 100 MSAs. Each quarter it surveys employers in those cities about whether they plan to add or cut jobs, keep employment levels the same, or haven’t yet decided. In the Cape Coral area, a net 32% plan to hire new staff in the first quarter of 2015. That’s a substantial bump up from 23% a year ago. Dana Burnett, economic development director for the city of Cape Coral, says the city continues to rebound from the subprime mortgage crisis and construction jobs abound. “We got hit hard and we’re still waking up from that,” he says. Hertz announced last year that it was moving its headquarters to Estero, FLA, inside the Cape Coral MSA, and it’s in hiring mode. There are also retail jobs at the new Sam’s Club opening in January and jobs at a mega-Walmart planned for 2015. A shoe manufacturer, Camuto Group in Bonita Springs, is also hiring.
Cape Coral’s robust picture compares favorably with a nationwide seasonally adjusted net employment outlook of 16%. That may not be as strong as the top MSAs on the list but, says Manpower Senior Vice President Kip Wright, “This is one of the most positive outlooks in the last six or seven years. It’s the strongest it’s been since Q1 of 2008,” he says. “We’re starting to see that the recovery is sustained, the stock market is improving, oil and gas prices are stabilizing, consumers have more money in their pockets and they’re rebuilding their savings.” The other plus: while there are plenty of low-wage food service and retail jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (roughly one eight of the new job openings in September 2014 were in retail trade, according to the BLS), there are also many jobs in professional business services, manufacturing, health care and construction.
Deltona, FL and Grand Rapids, MI are tied for third place. One of the spurs to Deltona’s growth is major construction at the Daytona speedway (Daytona is part of the Deltona MSA) that is adding a new level onto the structure, and across from the speedway workers have broken ground on One Daytona, a huge shopping center centered around a Bass Pro Shop sporting goods store.
To gauge companies’ hiring plans, Manpower surveyed more than 18,000 US employers, gathering data in the top 100 metro areas. It used a research firm that quizzed hiring managers and human resource professionals by phone and email over the first two weeks of October. The firm asked one multiple-choice question about companies’ plans for the first quarter of 2015: How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the next three months to the end of March 2014, as compared to the current quarter? Companies could choose four answers: Increase staff. Reduce staff. Keep staff levels the same. Unsure. Then Manpower crunched the numbers and came up with a “net employment outlook.” The survey is a rough measure, since it doesn’t’ count the number of jobs employers plan to add or subtract, but simply asks whether they plan to hire or fire.