Six months ago, Steve Wolfe, chief executive of Tatum Manufacturing Inc., expected he'd be hiring in 2008. But recently the Tampa manufacturer and distributor of spas has instead been doing some "rightsizing" of its 250-person work force. And when you ask Wolfe what his employee count will be at year end, he hedges.
"It won't be bigger, definitely," he says. "It will probably be smaller."
The changing picture at Wolfe's company is being seen across the Tampa Bay area, which ranked as one of the weakest spots in the nation for hiring in Manpower Inc.'s most recent quarterly employment survey.
"That's no surprise to me," said Wolfe, who blames skyrocketing oil prices for affecting everything from the price of his raw materials to consumers' buying habits.
Though employers across the country told the Manpower survey they expect to pull back a bit from hiring for the third quarter, in several Florida metro areas the turnaround has been more dramatic. In the Tampa Bay area, only 8 percent of the companies surveyed plan to hire in the coming quarter (July through September), while 46 percent of employers plan layoffs.
That's a sharp contrast to the prior three months, when 30 percent of companies were hiring and only 22 percent intended to cut jobs.
Orlando's transformation is even worse: None of the surveyed companies there said it would be hiring in the third quarter, while 44 percent anticipate layoffs. That's stunning news in a metro area that has traditionally been one of the biggest job generators in the state. Other Florida markets with a low percentage of employers intending to hire in the third quarter were Stuart (3 percent), Gainesville (7 percent) and Broward County (7 percent).
Joe Badalamenti, branch manager of Manpower's office in West Tampa, said he's seen the flow of job orders shrinking for nearly a year, largely due to the collapsed real estate market.
"We have accounts with large housing construction companies and a large mortgage company and that business just stopped cold," he said. "I've been in the industry for 15 years, and although we've had recession-like markets in the past, this one is pretty dramatic."
Jodi Boord lost her position at Eckerd College in October and has picked up a restaurant server job to pay the bills. "I've continued to send out resumes, but jobs in education or marketing are few and far between," said Boord, 29. "If there's an opening, they get 100 applicants."
Kris Hundley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2996.