MUMBAI: White-collar hiring in the country declined 6% on year in 2023, pulled down by sectors such as IT services, BPO/ITeS, retail, FMCG, education, and healthcare, show data put together by online jobs platform Naukri.com exclusively for ET.

Companies in several sectors tightened their hiring funnel amid global macroeconomic headwinds and prolonged geopolitical uncertainties even as sectors that have seen business growth in the last one year, including oil & gas, power, infrastructure, energy, BFSI, travel, and real estate, recorded double-digit growth in hiring numbers, data showed.

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GDP growth, business growth across segments, and shortage of skills will be the three main drivers that will fuel positive hiring sentiment in certain sectors in the first three months of 2024, job market experts said.

“White-collar job market will continue to be very cautious in the year ahead except in sectors that are witnessing significant business growth,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda.

While the BFSI sector will hire people at all levels, FMCG companies will continue to hire but cautiously, he said. Hospitality and travel tourism will also be hiring across levels. But most of the senior level hiring will be replacements unless for niche areas and skills, he added.

Hiring activity in the IT services sector declined by 29% in 2023 compared with 2022 when hiring had increased 7% year on year, showed the Naukri.com data.The data was aggregated based on the hiring activity of over 100,000 clients with over seven million new job mandates yearly. The data does not cover gig employment, hyperlocal hiring, or campus placement.Entry-level hiring plummeted during the year – with a 9-13% decline in hiring of people with 0-7 years’ experience – even as companies continued to hire seasoned professionals. Hiring of white-collar workers with 13-16 years’ experience increased 14% in 2023 and there was a 30% jump in hiring of those with more than 16 years of experience, data showed.

Job market experts and economists said the lowering appetite for entry level talent shows that companies are increasingly scouting for readily deployable talent.

“As we step into 2024, the recruitment landscape is characterised by a blend of caution, strategic concerns, and an eagerness to adopt innovative approaches,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO of Ciel HR Services.

A recent survey by Ciel based on responses from more than 550 companies showed that 51% of them anticipate increased hiring freezes in 2024.

“This cautious sentiment may stem from various factors, including economic uncertainties or industry-specific challenges,” Mishra said. “Industries such as consulting, edutech/education, and IT services show a higher percentage of companies anticipating hiring freezes.”

Electric vehicles, telecom, ecommerce, logistics, hospitality, and aviation sectors have positive hiring outlook, he added.

As per Naukri.com data, most metro cities including Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi/NCR, and Kolkata witnessed a fall in hiring during 2023 while Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Jaipur recorded an increase.

Sectors that saw hiring decline in 2023 – IT services, BPO/ITeS, retail, FMCG, education, healthcare

Sectors that saw hiring increase – Oil & gas, power, infrastructure, energy, BFSI, travel, and real estate

Entry-level hiring down as companies look for readily deployable talent

Metros post fall in hiring – Bengaluru (down 21%), Hyderabad (down 19%), Chennai (down 15%), Kolkata (down 13%), Delhi/NCR (down 3%)

Vadodara (19%), Ahmedabad (17%) and Jaipur (7%) recorded an increase

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