Will we start to see a real recovery the global jobs market in the last quarter of 2009? If the latest survey data is anything to go by, the answer depends very much on where you're located. Prospects look encouraging in many emerging economies, but as far as the US and Europe are concerned, the jury is still out.
According to the quarterly Employment Outlook Survey from recruitment company Manpower, employers in half the countries surveyed – 17 out of 35 - expect some positive hiring activity in the quarter ahead. In contrast, those in 15 countries report negative hiring expectations and 10 reported their weakest hiring plans since the survey was established in 1962.
Employers in India and Brazil are leading the way as far as recruitment confidence is concerned, with Australia, China, Singapore and Canada also showing signs of recovery.
India emerged from the survey with a net employment outlook of 25 (25 per cent more employers planning to take on staff than are planning to shed them), closely followed by Brazil with a figure of 21.
For the leading G7 economies (except Canada), the story is less encouraging, with all reporting negative hiring expectations.
"Interestingly, employers in emerging markets are more optimistic about hiring compared to their counterparts in more developed economies," said Jeffrey Joerres, Manpower's CEO.
"While a quarter-over-quarter comparison shows modest improvements in six of the G7 countries, with the exception of Canada, all are reporting negative hiring expectations. As demand for their products and services continues to be weak, employers remain very selective in their hiring process, resulting in a sluggish job market."
In the U.S., where a record five million people have been out of work for more than six months, all signs point to a slow, recovery and a long period of high unemployment.
However the Manpower survey does hint at a slow-down in the wave of job losses, with a greater proportion of U.S. employers expecting to keep staff levels unchanged in the quarter ahead.
It's a similar story across most of Europe, with hiring sentiments remaining generally negative but eight out of 10 employers saying they will not reduce staff numbers further.
But for Ireland and Spain – both of whom are experiencing the devastating effects of a construction-fueled boom-and-bust, prospects are grim, with net employment outlooks of -8.
As far as prospects for professionals and managers are concerned, however, there may be reason for cautious optimism. A separate global survey of hiring and firing trends by recruitment firm Antal suggests that 48 per cent of employers are planning to recruit managerial staff compared to 44 per cent in the spring.
At the same time the percentage of organisations intending to shed senior staff has fallen from 35 per cent in the spring to 25 per cent now.
In China, almost three-quarters of firms said they intend to hire, with hiring levels in India up to 51 per cent from 29 per cent in the spring.
The Antal survey also suggests a definite improvement in the professional and managerial jobs market in Europe and the U.S., with around half of employers in France, the UK and Belgium recruiting or intending to recruit and 56 per cent of U.S. employers intending to do the same in the coming quarter.
But while the figures give cause for cautious optimism, Antal's CEO, Tony Goodwin, stressed that it would be foolhardy to say that the economic crisis is over – or even that the worst is over for the jobs market.
"There may still be unforeseen troubles waiting around the corner," he said, "the W-shaped recession or the 'dead cat bounce', for example, so beloved by the more apocalyptic commentators.
"But what may save us even if they are lying in ambush is an underlying sense of confidence that appears to be returning for the first time in nearly two long and difficult years."