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Employment outlook gets a little brighter

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The employment picture will brighten a little in 2010, with most employers saying they will hire this year and the percentage planning workforce reductions down a bit, according to a survey published Thursday.

Towers Watson, a global human resources consultancy, said its survey of about 450 large and medium-sized businesses worldwide found that 92% of employers plan expand to payrolls this year.

At the same time, the survey found that 36% of employers are planning "targeted workforce reductions" this year, down from the 58% that have cut workers since the financial crisis began in 2008.

"While there are signs of improvement, it's clear we're not going back to 'business as usual' anytime soon," Laura Sejen, a rewards practice leader at Towers Watson, said in a statement.

The survey was released a day after President Obama called on Congress to pass legislation aimed at boosting job growth. The U.S. unemployment rate remains at 10% and the nation has lost 7 million jobs since the economy went into recession.

While the weak job market has made it easier for businesses to retain workers over the last year, 51% said it will be harder to keep employees from jumping ship a year from now.

The survey also highlighted how the weak economy has forced employees to remain in the workforce longer and save less for retirement.

Over half of the businesses in the survey said the number of employees working past their desired retirement age has increased over the last year, and one third expect that trend to continue.

Almost a third of companies reported that employees have on average reduced their contributions to 401(k) plans from pre-financial crisis levels, and 51% have seen an increase in hardship withdrawals.

Employers also indicated that health care costs have gone up and will continue to rise in 2011.

Despite the challenging economy, 55% of employers believe worker productivity had risen compared with pre-financial crisis levels, and 48% expect productivity will continue to rise by next year.

The survey was conducted in early January with 118 mostly large employers in the United States and 459 employers globally, Towers Watson said.  To top of page

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