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Companies face looming war for talent: Challenger

Higher wages and a war for talent are on the horizon as companies compete for a shrinking pool of skilled labor during the next two years, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"We're at the time in the economic cycle, say the seventh inning, where there just aren't as many workers around," Challenger told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. "So what you start to see is companies going out to other companies recruiting and wooing their best workers."

"That should begin to drive in this next two years higher wages as companies pay up for the best people," he added. "There will be more of a war for talent I think we're moving into."

With less than four weeks left in the year, employers are on pace to cut the fewest jobs since 1997, according to a report his firm released earlier Thursday. Employers have shed 450,531 workers year to date, a decrease of 5.8 percent from the same period last year.

Companies cannot find skilled employees such as machinists, welders and truckers, so they are holding on to these workers, Challenger said.

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He said it was surprising that chief executives indicated at Wednesday's Business Roundtable summit that they would spend less on capital expenditures.

As the United States moves toward full employment "the demand for programmers and skilled workers are going to really begin to cause companies problems. You'd think they'd be wanting to invest more in technology to prepare for that kind of eventuality."

The Challenger report said the number of planned layoffs by U.S. employers fell 30 percent in November from the previous month, when it surged nearly 70 percent.

Employers planned to cut 35,940 jobs in November, compared with 51,183 in October, the report said.

The number was also a 21 percent decline from November 2013, when employers announced plans to cut 45,314 jobs.

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The consumer products industry led the job losses with 5,158 announced layoffs.

The computer industry led job cuts in 2014, followed by the retail sector.

While retailers have laid off about 9,500 employees in the last two months, they have also added tens of thousands of seasonal workers in the runup to the holidays, Challenger said.