For seasonal job-seekers and new grads starting off their careers, this summer is shaping up to be a good one to get hired.
As the employment picture improves overall, new surveys indicate that this summer could be a good one for people who are looking for work. Better yet: A tighter labor market means that more employers are going to be raising wages in order to get the stuff they need.
According to a survey by SnagaJob.com of hourly employers that typically hire summer help, 92 percent plan to hire workers for the summer. More than nine out of 10 said they'll hire the same or a greater number of summer workers, and roughly two-thirds said they expect to hire new people as opposed to just rehiring seasonal employees from the previous year.
"We saw really strong numbers this year," SnagaJob CEO Peter Harrison said. His company's survey found that the vast majority — 70 percent — of companies bringing on hourly workers this summer expect to have their hiring completed by the end of May.
Consulting firm Accenture also found that companies are moving faster this year to fill summer positions. In a survey of college students on track to graduate this year, it found that 21 percent had already accepted a job before graduation, while only 12 percent had done so a year earlier.
"We see employers starting to realize they have to do more to acquire the best talent," said Katherine LaVelle, managing director at Accenture Strategy.
When employers are feeling the crunch, workers benefit.
"It's a great time for finding a job right now," Harrison said. "Employers are generally getting more and more creative in trying to attract people."
Although Harrison said some companies were focusing on more flexible schedules and other perks, one of the primary ways employers are trying to woo summer help is with higher wages. At the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, director Phil Gardner said he has observed a growth in wages for companies hiring new graduates this year, a welcome sign after years of stagnation.
"It's good to see that wages are moving up in general," he said. "The thing now you have to watch for is, how much salary pressure are we're going to get?"
A new survey from CareerBuilder found that a little more than half — 56 percent — of employers who expect to hire this summer plan to pay $15 an hour or more, up from 53 percent who planned to pay that much last year. Two-thirds plan to raise pay for seasonal workers who stick around for more than one summer.
Snagajob also found that companies expect to pay hourly summer workers more: Employers said they anticipate paying an hourly average of $12.75, a 10 percent increase over last year.
Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said all these signs are indicative of a job market that's gaining strength across the board.
"There are opportunities across the board," Haefner said. "What organizations are getting more comfortable doing is they're hiring at a variety of levels."
CareerBuilder found that companies are seeking to fill positions in high-skilled and professional areas like IT, engineering and banking.
Amanda Augustine, career advice expert at TopResume, also said current job openings run the gamut.
"We've seen a small improvement in the unemployment rate year-over-year, with gains in professional and business services, healthcare, and financial activities," she said.
Employers have an advantage starting new employees off as interns or summer hires because the fixed time frame of a summer job gives them an opportunity to almost conduct an extended interview, experts say. They can use the summer months to gauge how quickly the new employee can pick up on the skills they need to know and how well they mesh with the existing corporate culture. If the fit is favorable, they have a head start on their competitors heading into the fall.
"Many of the employers are looking at this — it may be a commitment budget-wise for the summer but it's a candidate pool they're building for long term employment," Haefner said. "Things are more favorable than they were last year."