Employment Outlook Shows Promise

Employers’ hiring plans for the upcoming first quarter are “the most promising” in more than two years, on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook survey published Tuesday.

A seasonally adjusted net 9% of firms said they expect to hire in the first quarter, the largest percentage since the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Milwaukee-based firm’s survey of more than 18,000 U.S. employers. For the fourth quarter, 5% of firms said they planned to hire, the same percentage as in the first quarter of 2010.

Melanie Holmes, Manpower’s vice president of community investment, said that while the report does contain good news, it could be better. “We have 10 percentage points to go before we are at a strong number,” Holmes said.

Between 2001 and 2010 the average seasonally adjusted net employment outlook was about 14%, five percentage points higher than the first-quarter result, Holmes said.

She pointed to some good news for those currently working: a non-seasonally adjusted 73% of employers said they expect to make no change to staff levels in the first quarter. Fourteen percent of employers said they expect to increase staff, 10% expect to decrease staff, and 3% don’t know. Employers’ net hiring plans have been positive for five straight quarters.

“The fact that hiring expectations are trending upward is an encouraging sign,” said Jonas Prising,” president of Manpower in the Americas. “This quarter’s survey responses paint a picture of a job market that is easing up, although not as quickly as anyone would like.”

Prising added: “We are still stuck in first gear, but the ongoing sector-wide improvement we have seen over the last year suggests that the labor market is ready to shift to a higher gear in 2011.”

The Manpower report echoed other encouraging data. Last week Automatic Data Processing Inc.’s employment report for November showed that private-sector employment rose by 93,000, the largest jump in three years.

Still, the U.S. economy added just 39,000 jobs in November, counting private and government jobs, according to the Labor Department’s latest report.

The Manpower survey measures the percentage of firms planning to hire minus the percentage of those intending layoffs. Manpower doesn’t measure the number of jobs.

Industry outlook
Looking at the details, 11 of 13 industry sectors had a positive net employment outlook for the first quarter, the same proportion as for the fourth quarter. Manpower’s industry data is not seasonally adjusted.

For the first quarter, one industry sector had a net negative employment outlook: construction, at negative 9%. Government had no change in the net employment outlook.

For each industry sector, here are the figures for the net employment outlook for the first quarter, not seasonally adjusted, in order of the most positive first:

  • Leisure and hospitality, 12% in the first quarter, up from 9% in the fourth quarter
  • Professional and business services, 11%, up from 10%
  • Information, 10%, up from 7%
  • Wholesale and retail trade, 10%, down from 13%
  • Education and health services, 6%, up from 4%
  • Manufacturing — nondurable goods, 6%, same as prior quarter
  • Manufacturing — durable goods, 6%, down from 7%
  • Mining, 6%, down from 13%



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