Sweden’s biggest exporters are hiring more workers again as they gear up for an expansion to tap growing demand in Asia and the U.S.
There has been across the board demand for more workers at Sweden’s exporters, small- and mid-sized manufacturing companies and at suppliers, Lars Forseth, head of the Swedish unit of Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Manpower Inc. (MAN), said in an April 3 interview. He declined to comment on specific industries, citing competition reasons.
“We saw a change starting to happen sometime in early March,” Forseth said. “We’re at the start of a very small upturn but it is nonetheless a change in a positive direction.”
Swedish manufacturing expanded for a second month in March and companies including Atlas Copco AB (ATCOA), Electrolux AB (ELUXB), SKF AB (SKFB) and Volvo AB (VOLVB) have all expressed optimism about a rebound in the U.S., the world’s largest economy. A March 12 Manpower survey forecast job growth in Swedish manufacturing of 2 percent in the second quarter, after 4 percent growth in the first quarter.
Sweden’s $500 billion economy has been struggling to expand as Europe’s debt-crisis induced recession is sapping demand for exporters. The country’s krona is also one the best-performing major currencies in the world over the past year, making Swedish goods more expensive abroad.
Economic growth in Sweden, the largest Nordic economy, slowed to 0.8 percent last year from 3.7 percent in 2011 as exports fell. The economy will expand 1.3 percent this year and 2.3 percent in 2014, Sweden’s National Institute of Economic Research said on March 27.
Swedish manufacturing expanded faster than economists had projected in March, with a purchasing managers’ index rising to 52.1 from 50.9 in February. A reading above 50 indicates growth. Orders increased both nationally and in export markets in March.
Still, the index’s employment component dipped to 44.2 from 45.3 even as the sub-index measuring production plans rose to 60.5. This signals growing production and “strengthens the case for new hiring,” Swedbank, which compiles the index, said.
Manpower clients are looking for workers within production, including assembly and for expertise in handling machinery, Forseth said. A further increase in demand could also spill over to white-collar employees, he said. Demand is seen supported by Asia and the U.S., while Europe is still more subdued, he said.
SKF, the world’s largest maker of ball bearings used in everything from cars to washing machines and hospital beds, plans to add more production in the U.S. to meet growing demand in North America, Chief Executive Officer Tom Johnstone said last month in an interview from Gothenburg, Sweden.
“For the last two or three years we’ve been much more bullish on North America because I really believe that in the medium and longer-term that North America will be, from an industrial viewpoint, a growing economy,” he said.
Atlas Copco CEO Ronnie Leten also said last month the Stockholm-based maker of air compressors is going “full speed ahead” in the U.S to capitalize on growth fueled by limited salary increases and favorable energy prices.
The world’s largest economy is projected to accelerate in the first quarter as companies invest in new equipment and rebuild stockpiles, while consumers keep spending in the face of higher taxes. The economy will expand at a 2 percent rate in the first quarter, according to the median estimate of 73 economists surveyed by Bloomberg from March 8 to March 13.
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