From Customers Come Hiring Cues

Industry ReportAlthough recent job trends in the state may have been uninspiring, consumer-led hiring remains a bright spot. Companies as different as Continental Airlines and Verizon Wireless are responding to strong customer demand by extending core-service offerings and adding to their payrolls.

Continental, which has a major hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, hired some 350 pilots and 450 flight attendants in New Jersey this past summer to meet robust demand for an expanded lineup of international flights, according to Martin DeLeon, a spokesperson for the airline. DeLeon adds that some of the hirings were of previously furloughed employees.

Houston-based Continental last year launched non-stop service from Newark to such cities as Stockholm, Berlin, Beijing and New Delhi. As for hiring in 2006, DeLeon declined comment, but noted that the airline plans to start service from Newark to Cologne and Barcelona by next summer.

Verizon Wireless, the Bedminster-based joint venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone, added some 450 more employees than projected in 2005 in the New York metropolitan area, which includes northern New Jersey. “We started the year thinking 250 [more workers], but it will be close to 600,” says spokesperson David Samberg. Most new hires were placed in “customer-facing positions,” such as sales and telemarketing.

Samberg attributes the stepped-up hiring to strong customer growth, high customer retention and new marketing-distribution alliances. A recent deal to open Verizon Wireless kiosks in BJ”s Wholesale Club stores expanded the telco”s retail staff. In 2006, “We are absolutely hiring more people [in New Jersey],” he says.

On the other hand, the state last year took some hits from the pharmaceutical industry. Merck, which started laying off workers in 2003, plans to jettison 250 manufacturing-related jobs at its Rahway plant by 2008 as part of a worldwide, $4 billion cost-cutting move.

E-mail to kkim@njbiz.com
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