Manpower: Slight Softening in Q1 2007

A new Manpower employment survey suggests that employers expect weaker hiring activities in the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector in the first three months of 2007 versus the final quarter of 2006.

While the Finance/Insurance/Real Estate sector was one of the strongest performers in the survey throughout most of 2006, employers in this sector now report weaker hiring expectations, making job prospects tighter than in recent years.

“The Q1 forecast is steady and similar to the last quarter of a year ago, but a subtle downward shift has occurred,” says Jeanne Farmer, Manpower’s regional director for Ohio. “That is the trend we saw based on overall results, with four out of 10 expecting weaker hiring activities.”

Of the 10 industries surveyed, employers also say they expect weaker hiring activity in Construction, Durable Goods Manufacturing, and Transportation/Public Utilities.

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.

Meanwhile, employers in the Non-Durable Goods Manufacturing, Wholesale/Retail Trade, and Services sectors expect few hiring changes compared to the fourth quarter.

Hiring in the Education and Public Administration sectors may improve slightly, with a modest improvement also expected in the Mining industry.

Regional Forecast

The survey indicates that employers in the South and West have slightly weaker hiring plans compared to the first quarter of 2006.

“Quarter over quarter, when you compare Q1 to Q4 of 2006, the West was slightly less optimistic, with the Midwest being most conservative,” says Farmer.

In addition, the Northeast is expected to have the strongest job growth in the first quarter.

“The main conclusion is that U.S. employers remain confident, but I think they are being careful about their hiring plans. It’s by no means a dramatic shift, but it does indicate some companies are being more thoughtful,” she adds.

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Global View

Globally, the company says the international labor market will have a positive start in 2007, with employers in most of Europe and Asia planning to increase hiring compared to the first quarter of 2006.

Specifically, the company says the German labor market appears to be gaining momentum with a second consecutive quarter of healthier job prospects, while employers in Singapore and India are set to accelerate hiring compared to the same quarter last year.

The most optimistic hiring expectations for the first quarter are in Peru, Singapore, India, Argentina, South Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

In the Asia/Pacific region, hiring prospects remain strong but are slightly weaker than three months ago.

Compared to the first quarter of 2006, hiring is expected to improve in seven of eight countries and territories surveyed.

The survey notes that hiring expectations are strongest in Singapore and India, and weakest in Taiwan.

Manpower will release its second-quarter 2007 employment outlook survey in March.

Elaine Rigoli has nearly 15 years of experience managing content and community for various B2B and consumer websites. Elaine has written thousands of business and technology articles and has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and eWeek, among other publications.

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