Survey: Hiring plans steady, softening

U.S. employers are set to enter 2007 with a steady hiring pace similar to the past two years, according to the seasonally adjusted results of the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, which is conducted quarterly by the staffing service Manpower Inc.

“Although the U.S. employment outlook remains stable, hiring managers are leaning toward a softened job pace, which you can see by the subtle decline in confidence in the last two quarters of survey results,” said Jonas Prising, president of Manpower North America. “This is by no means a dramatic shift in employer sentiment, but it does indicate that companies are giving more thought to posting help wanted notices.”

Of the 14,000 U.S. employers surveyed, 23% expect to add to their payrolls during the first quarter of 2007, while 11% expect to reduce staff levels. Sixty percent expect no change in the hiring pace, and 6% are undecided about their hiring plans.

The seasonally adjusted survey results show that employers in the nondurable goods manufacturing, wholesale/retail trade and services sectors remain confident and foresee little change in the hiring pace compared to the fourth quarter. Hiring is expected to improve slightly in the education and public administration sectors.

In four of the 10 industry sectors surveyed, employers expect weaker hiring activity in the first three months of 2007 vs. the final quarter of 2006. These sectors include construction, durable goods manufacturing, transportation/public utilities and, especially, finance/insurance/real estate.