U.S. employers and recruiters have largely given up expectations for an increase in hiring this year, and more are cutting starting salaries, according to a semi-annual survey by Dice Holdings Inc.

Dice's survey found 10 percent of employers expect a hiring recovery in the second half of this year, down from 33 percent who said so in November. Thirty-one percent said layoffs were likely over the next six months, down only slightly from 34 percent six months ago.

Majorities said they have seen significant increases in the number of applicants, and about a third said it takes longer to fill open jobs, largely because of uncertainty over the economy's direction.

Most hiring managers are sticking to budgets made at the beginning of the year, said Dice Chief Executive Scot Melland.

Our customers are telling us they feel better about the environment but that has yet to translate into a change in recruiting budgets, Melland said. Hiring typically revives three to six months after the wider economy turns, he added.

Half of the 1,900 employers and recruiters surveyed expect a recovery in 2010 and a third were not sure, according to Dice, which runs specialized websites focused on technology, engineering and financial sector jobs.


Dice's real-time metric of tech jobs posted showed about 48,000 openings on Tuesday, down from about 50,000 earlier this month and about 80,000 in September. The company had about 1,100 openings at eFinancialCareers.com as of Monday, down 53 percent year-over-year.

It was too soon to say this measure of financial sector hiring has stabilized, Melland said.

Private banking and wealth management are among growth categories, but those are offset by continuing declines in investment banking and hedge fund postings, Melland said, and new hires can expect lower pay.

Starting salaries are down slightly at 31 percent of firms, up from 13 percent of firms in November, Dice said. The number of employers reporting significantly lower starting salaries has more than tripled since November, to 7 percent.

There are enough people on the street to impact starting salaries, Melland said.

Pay is rising, however, in jobs that require active government security clearances, where average pay is up 2 percent to $74,000. That part of Dice's business continues to do really well, Melland said, after posting a 32-percent sales increase in the first quarter.

ClearanceJobs.com has found sharply higher salaries for workers with security clearance in Afghanistan, reflecting a renewed U.S. government focus on that country. The average salary for cleared workers there is up 7 percent to $106,000, only slightly below the average for those working in Iraq.

There is still very active demand for people with active security clearances, Melland said.