BEDFORD — Massachusetts and New Hampshire companies may be confident about their business prospects heading into 2019, but they are far less certain about their ability to recruit and hire employees with the right skills, according to a survey released Thursday by BANKW Staffing.

BANKW is a leading regional provider of temporary, contract-to-hire and direct-hire staffing services in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

In the survey, 90 percent of the companies indicated they expected to hire new employees in the first half of 2019, with 42 percent planning to add 1 to 10 jobs and 20 percent expecting to hire at least 50 new employees over that period. This aggressive hiring forecast is balanced by employers' concerns about their ability to fill these positions with qualified candidates. Sixty-six percent of the businesses indicated finding and recruiting new employees with the right skills to meet their business needs is the biggest management challenge they face.

“The results of the survey show that businesses across all sectors of the economy are growing and expanding their teams most commonly to bridge a skills gap within their company,” said Matt Nagler, managing partner, BANKW Staffing. “However, there is a real pipeline challenge as businesses are struggling to recruit and hire skilled talent who possess the type of skills companies need in 2019 and beyond. Not only is the talent pool shallower, but competition amongst businesses vying for these candidates is getting fiercer by the day.”

The BANKW Staffing Employer Confidence Index, conducted this fall, surveyed 94 New Hampshire and Massachusetts employers across a variety of sectors including accounting, financial services, technology, human resources, professional services and marketing. The survey reveals insights about the state of the job market from the employer’s perspective in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire – two of the top performing regions of the U.S. economy.

Confidence in the economy translated directly to plans to increase staffing levels, as 53.2 percent of responding employers indicated they were “very likely” to hire new staff in the coming six months. Another 37.2 percent said they were “likely” to hire new employees. Employers suggested in the survey that in order to compete in the highly competitive race for qualified workers, they must win the war for talent. Nearly half of employers cited the recruiting and hiring of qualified candidates with the appropriate skill levels and experience to match the position as their top recruiting challenges.

When evaluating what is attracting talent, work-life balance (38.3 percent) and health care (24.5 percent) stood clearly as the top two perks and benefits (excluding financial compensation) that employees were seeking from their employer. This coincides with a similar BANKW Staffing Candidate Confidence Index released in October that found potential job candidates are confident in their employment opportunities and willing to change jobs often to find benefits and growth in their careers.

Optimism for sustaining growth in a strong economy remains high, as 28.7 percent were “extremely confident” in their business prospects over the next six months while another 42.6 percent replied were “very confident.” Another 40.4 percent of respondents were “very confident” in the current U.S. economy. As for a comparison with recent history, 26.6 percent in the survey indicated they were “more confident” in the current economy than a year ago.

For more information, visit www.bankwstaffing.com.