If top-end executive recruitment is any sort of barometer of economic trends, then the latest news from the recruitment industry is resoundingly positive. Because according to the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) - a body representing headhunters across the world - the second quarter of 2010 saw the highest quarterly rise in executive search industry revenues since the low point of the recession only 15 months ago.
The latest figures from the AESC show a quarter-on-quarter 12 per cent growth rate in revenue worldwide and substantial year-on-year growth in the number of search assignments started across most industries and regions.
But more significant than that, they also record a 38 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of new executive searches started globally.
In other words, they provide clear evidence that companies are actively recruiting senior-level executives across a whole range of industries and functions.
Executive searches within financial services saw the greatest year-on-year growth in Q2 2010, rising 50 per cent from Q2 2009. This growth was closely followed by increased search activity in the technology sector, up 43.5 per cent year-on-year, and then industrial (+39%) and consumer (+37%). Such positive trends suggest a resurgence for those industries hit hardest by the recession.
But as AESC President, Peter Felix, pointed out, the big question is whether such growth will be sustained.
"The critical issue now is whether the next two quarters will hold up in the face of continuing uncertainty about a double dip recession," he said.
"On the bright side, however, is the realization by many organizations that the shortage of talent, already evident before the recession, is reasserting itself strongly. Companies have begun to think strategically again and in looking for growth are seeking out those executives who can offer both operational strength but also practical leadership in taking organizations and teams forward."
According to Brian Sullivan, CEO of global executive search firm CTPartners, the upsurge in recruitment activity is being led by companies seeking new blood and fresh thinking.
"We are seeing companies come to grips with the need to shift to a post recessionary mindset, where the old tried and true ways of going about selling, manufacturing and the financial function aren't enough," Sullivan said.
"And its beginning at the Board, whereby directors are questioning the go-to-market methodology used in the past."
As far as regional trends are concerned, from Q1 2010 to Q2 2010, North America seems to be emerging from the recession first and strongest, followed by Asia Pacific and other emerging markets. Europe is lagging behind with flat results from quarter one to quarter two this year.
Just to underline the optimism, the latest ExecuNet Executive Job Creation Index showed that executive-level hiring forecast by US recruiters remained positive for seventh consecutive month, with companies expected to add more management jobs than they plan to eliminate in the next six months.