Employers in the U.S. plan to hire more workers in the first quarter of 2012, indicating growing optimism over the economic outlook, a survey showed.
Manpower Inc. (MAN), the world’s second-largest provider of temporary workers, said today its employment index climbed to 9 percent, the highest reading since 2008, from 7 percent for the October to December period on a seasonally adjusted basis. The gauge increased for the first time in a year.
A pickup in employment would raise the odds that consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy will sustain recent gains into next year. Uncertainty surrounding the outcomes of the European debt crisis and the U.S. budget battle may be holding companies back from expanding workforces even more, the report said.
“Slow-but-steady momentum has improved employer confidence,” Jonas Prising, president of the Americas for Milwaukee-based Manpower, said in a statement. While “this uptick is encouraging,” there is “continued uncertainty about the future and ongoing caution when it comes to staffing plans,” he said.
The share of survey respondents who are unsure of hiring intentions rose to 7 percent, the highest since 2005. Compared with 3 percent in the prior quarter, the jump was the biggest since 1977, Manpower said.
The first-quarter employment index was up from 8 percent in the same period of 2011 on a seasonally adjusted basis. The measure subtracts the percentage of employers planning to cut jobs from those looking to hire, and adjusts the results for seasonal variations.
About seven of every 10 employers said they anticipated staff levels will not change in the final three months of this year, similar to the outlook in the previous quarter. The report showed 14 percent of employers plan to add workers in the January to March 2012 period, down from 16 percent in the previous three months. The share of those projecting workforce reductions fell to 9 percent from 11 percent.
Other reports have signaled the job market is healing. Payrolls grew by 120,000 last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent. Part of the decline was due to a drop in the number of those looking for work, Labor Department figures showed on Dec. 2.
Today’s Manpower report showed employers in 12 of the 13 industries surveyed had a positive hiring outlook, up from 11 in the prior quarter. The plans were led by mining, leisure and hospitality and retail and wholesale trade. First-quarter hiring intentions stayed negative at construction businesses, while plans at government agencies turned positive from negative.
Employers in all four major U.S. regions in the Manpower survey expected hiring to increase in the first three months of 2012 on a seasonally adjusted basis, led by the Midwest. The West had the weakest outlook.
Manpower interviewed more than 18,000 employers in the U.S. The survey is conducted quarterly, and the margin of error for U.S. data is plus or minus 0.6 percentage point.
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