Mixed fortunes for global jobs market

Dec 13 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Employment prospects in Britain are amongst the brightest in Europe, with the jobs market in London in particularly rude health. Meanwhile, U.S. employers plan to keep hiring steady into 2006, marking two years of relatively consistent figures.

According to the latest quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of U.S. employers anticipate an increase in hiring activity for the first quarter of 2006, while 10 per cent expecting to decrease staff levels.

Sixty-one per cent of employers surveyed foresee no change in hiring plans, while six per cent are unsure of their staffing needs.

The seasonally adjusted Net Employment Outlook for the first three months of the year is 20 per cent, identical to the fourth quarter of 2005 and nearly the same as a year ago.

"U.S. businesses are not aggressively seeking to increase staff levels as they enter the new year. Instead, they are looking back over the past several quarters and are concluding that hiring is still on target with their operational needs," said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Chairman & CEO of Manpower. "Although hiring projections have remained steady for two years, different stories emerge each quarter from the industry sectors, and Construction is the lead story for first quarter of 2006," he added.

"In spite of interest rate and housing bubble speculation, Construction employers are forging ahead with their most optimistic job forecast in 27 years." Among the U.S. regions, stronger hiring patterns are in store for the South and the West when compared with the fourth quarter outlook. Little change is anticipated in the Midwest, while employers in the Northeast foresee a noticeable chill in hiring. The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, which collects data from more than 45,000 employers across the globe, found that the strongest first-quarter employment prospects are in India, New Zealand, Taiwan, United States and Australia.

On the other hand, employers in Germany, Italy and Austria are forecasting negative hiring expectations for the quarter ahead, with their counterparts in Sweden and France reporting their weakest hiring outlooks since the survey began in these countries in the third quarter of 2003.

While 19 of 23 countries surveyed reported positive hiring outlooks for the quarter ahead, 11 of 23 were weaker compared to last year at this time and most of the lower outlooks are from European employers. "First-quarter hiring across the European labour markets we survey is typically soft, but this year it appears more pervasive, with only UK employers looking to accelerate hiring from the fourth quarter," said Joerres.

"A number of labour markets in this region are currently experiencing challenging political, social and economic conditions and this is clearly having an impact on businesses' willingness and/or ability to add to their workforces. For now, at least, companies are going to continue to be cautious."

Of the 12 countries surveyed across Europe, employment prospects are strongest in the UK, Ireland, Norway, Belgium and Spain.

In the UK, 18 per cent of employers expected to take on new staff in the first quarter of 2006, while only nine percent expect to cut jobs

Confidence is high in Britain's finance and business services sector, where just under a third of employers hoped to take on staff in 2006 compared with eight per cent of firms looking to reduce their headcount.

The jobs market in London appears particularly buoyant, with almost one in three (29 per cent) of employers planning to take on staff - an increase of 10 percentage points on the same time last year. Only five per cent said they expected to reduce their headcount.

"These results should bring some festive cheer for the New Year as they show that hiring confidence has picked up after a cautious end to 2005," said Manpower UK Managing Director, Mark Cahill. "It's encouraging that the UK labour market is more optimistic than our European partners."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, hiring in Asia Pacific remains strong. Indian employers continue their solid hiring pace, albeit at a considerably reduced rate from the previous quarter, and employers in New Zealand, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong, China and Japan all expect to increase hiring activity slightly from the fourth quarter of 2005.

However, year-over-year decreases in hiring expectations were reported in both Hong Kong and New Zealand.