Hiring holds steady

A large number of employers plan to sit on the sidelines in terms of 2009 hiring, according to an employment outlook survey.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With the economy in dire straits, employers are taking a cautious approach to hiring going forward, according to a staffing firm survey released Tuesday.

Sixty-seven percent of employers said they plan to hold staff levels steady for the first quarter of 2009, up from 59% last quarter and 60% in the first quarter of 2008, according to the Manpower's employment outlook quarterly survey.

"Unless there are some signals that the economy is turning around, employers are staying on the sidelines in terms of hiring," explained Jonas Prising, president of Manpower North America.

"This is their stated intention, but of course this could change as they get into the first quarter, more likely for the worse," Prising added.

Of the 31,800 employers surveyed in the United States, only 16% anticipated hiring more employees during the first quarter, down from 22% last year, the survey said. Another 13% expected a reduction in their payrolls and less than 5% said they were undecided about their January to March hiring plans.

The net employment outlook, or difference between employers who plan to add jobs and those who expect to cut them, was 3%, down from 9% in the previous quarter and 10% in the year-ago period. That's the lowest net employment outlook since the first quarter of 1992.

Of the industries that plan on hiring, mining and professional & business services had the most promising hiring outlook, followed by wholesale & retail trade, financial activities, education & health services, leisure & hospitality, other services and government.

Alternatively, employers in construction had the weakest employment outlook in the upcoming quarter, while durable and nondurable goods manufacturing and transportation & utilities all anticipated a decline in hiring as well. Information employers plan to keep hiring levels relatively stable for the first quarter, according to the survey.

Of the employers in 33 countries and territories surveyed worldwide, the vast majority expected to see the pace of hiring slow compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. Employers in 21 countries reported the weakest hiring intentions since Manpower began tracking data.

With 1.9 million jobs lost in the U.S. already this year, job seekers are feeling pessimistic about the likelihood of landing a job in the months ahead. In a separate survey, 62% of unemployed workers expressed little or no confidence in their job prospects in the next four months, according to the National Employment Law Project. To top of page

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