U.S. Companies Are Hiring

Payrolls vault to higher pace for companies from Ford to Geico.

At Industrial Builders Inc., Paul Diederich plans to boost payrolls about 10 percent this year.

“The economy is on the rebound,” said the president of the West Fargo, North Dakota-based heavy-construction company. “We have some projects in our backlog.”

Temporary Help

Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, has identified three leading indicators of the labor market: changes in jobless claims, temporary help and the ability of small businesses to hire the employees they need. All three have improved, with applications for jobless benefits averaging 339,750 a week in the four weeks ended March 16, the lowest since February 2008.

Defense Cutbacks

Harris, chief economist for UBS, doesn’t share the concerns. Defense contractors already cut back in anticipation of reduced outlays by the Pentagon, limiting how much more they’ll need to trim, he said. The large companies reduced headcount by 15 percent during the past few years, even though their revenue fell just 4 percent, according to UBS calculations.

Seasonal Workers

Housing, too, is strengthening as rising sales spur home-building, and in turn, boost employment in the industry, as well as in related businesses. Lowe’s Cos. said in January it will take on 45,000 seasonal workers, 13 percent more than last year, and add 9,000 permanent employees. The Mooresville, North Carolina-based home-improvement retailer also plans to open 10 stores and extend hours this year.

Gearing Up

“We’re seeing that need for workers,” said Dedrick, whose Boston-based organization helps low-wage workers upgrade their skills and connect with employers. Businesses “are gearing back up again.”

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