Special Report Your Job

Early 2010 jobs outlook: Holding steady

Most employers say they will maintain staff levels and fewer say they will make cuts, according to Manpower survey.

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By Hibah Yousuf, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The New Year's resolution for most employers will be to keep staff levels stable during the first quarter of 2010, according to a report released Tuesday.

A record 73% of U.S. companies surveyed expect no change in their first-quarter hiring plans, according to the quarterly survey conducted by the employment services company Manpower. The U.S. component of its report surveyed more than 28,000 employers in 200 metropolitan areas.

A modest 12% of employers expect to add workers in the first quarter, and another 12% expect to make cuts, the survey said. The remainder 3% said they were undecided.

After seasonal adjustment, the result is a 6% hiring rate, the worst first-quarter hiring pace since 1982. But that's still an improvement compared to the negative 2% posted the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the survey.

"The first quarter is a seasonally slow hiring quarter," said Jeff Joerres, Manpower chief executive, in a statement. "To see an increase over the fourth quarter is unusual and seems to indicate increased confidence levels from employers."

Though the employment outlook for the first three months of 2010 is weaker compared to the same period a year ago when it measured at 9%, Manpower said the data reflect a positive change in employer sentiment.

"Employer uncertainty around hiring is shifting from whether to consider adding staff, to when - and at what rate - to make the investment," said Jonas Prising, Americas for Manpower, in a statement. "A record number of employers plan to keep staff levels stable, which is good for the employed, and an overall positive outlook means expanding opportunities for job seekers."

Last Friday, the Labor Department released a report showing an improvement in the job market. Employers cut 11,000 jobs in November, the fewest of any month since the start of the recession. And the unemployment rate dropped to 10%, from the 26-year high 10.2% reached in October.

Regional results. Hiring is expected to pick up across the nation during the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter.

The South reported the strongest employment outlook at 7%, while the Midwest expects 6%, and the Northeast anticipates 3%. Though the West had the weakest outlook at 2%, Manpower said employers in the region experienced the biggest increase in confidence compared to the same period last year.

All the regions reported waning outlooks year-over-year, but the West's outlook fell by two percentage points, the smallest decline compared to other areas of the nation. The largest drop was 5% in the Northeast.

Sector by sector. Employers' responses across industries varied. The survey said companies in the mining, durable goods manufacturing, information and government sectors expect to boost hiring moderately.

Companies in nondurable goods manufacturing, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and "other" services expect hiring to increase slightly.

The construction and the wholesale and retail trade industries expect a slight decrease in hiring levels, while financial activities employers expect hiring to stay relatively stable.

International responses. In the international component of the Manpower report, employers in 25 of 35 countries said they expect more hiring activity in the upcoming quarter. But nine countries expected a decrease, with six of those reporting their weakest hiring plans in the survey's history.

India, Brazil, Brazil, Singapore, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Australia, Peru and Hong Kong posted the strongest results, while Ireland, Romania and Spain reported the weakest. To top of page

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