About 23 percent of companies in the real estate, finance and insurance industries plan to add staff in the fourth quarter of this year, according to a quarterly employment survey released today by Manpower Inc., while 4 percent of the companies in these industries planned to reduce staff. For the construction industry, about 24 percent of surveyed companies planned to increase staff while 12 percent planned to reduce staff.

Of the 16,000 total U.S. employers surveyed, 28 percent plan to add staff in the fourth quarter, while 7 percent expect to reduce their payrolls, creating a Net Employment Outlook of 21 percent. Sixty percent of employers surveyed anticipate no change in staff levels for the coming quarter, and 5 percent are unsure of their hiring plans. The seasonally adjusted employment outlook for the final months of 2004 is the same as it was in both the second and third quarters of the year. The job forecast is more positive than a year ago, when the outlook was half as strong, according to a Manpower Inc. announcement.

“U.S. employers have predicted solid employment activity for the past six months, and they expect to sustain that level of hiring through the end of the year,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, Chairman and CEO of Manpower Inc. “Hiring plans remain the most upbeat they have been since the hiring boom of the late 1990s that continued into the new millennium. The survey’s history reveals only two other stretches when employers planned to hire at a healthier pace than in the current survey: The late 1970s and the middle months of 1984.”

The hiring outlook for the construction, finance, insurance and real estate industries was best in the West, according to the outlook, where about 29 percent of surveyed companies said they planned to increase staff, and 6 percent said they planned to reduce staff. The construction employment outlook was worst in the Midwest, where 21 percent of surveyed companies said they planned to increase staff, and 19 percent said they planned to decrease staff.

The finance, insurance and real estate employment outlook was worst in the Midwest, where 20 percent of companies said they planned to increase staff, and 3 percent planned to decrease staff; and in the South, where 21 percent of companies said they planned to increase staff, while 4 percent said they planned to decrease staff.

Employers in seven of the 10 industry sectors surveyed plan to keep hiring activity levels relatively consistent with the July-to-September period. These sectors include non-durable goods manufacturing, transportation/public utilities, wholesale/retail trade, finance/insurance/real estate, services, public administration and mining. Durable goods manufacturers are slightly more confident about hiring than they were in the third quarter, while job prospects in construction and education are expected to soften slightly.

“Optimism among durable and non-durable goods manufacturers has been mounting throughout 2004. The manufacturing sectors, along with wholesale/retail trade, are the bright spots in the fourth quarter survey. These employers are more confident about hiring than those in the other sectors,” Joerres said.

Employers in each of the U.S. regions, including the Midwest, Northeast, West and South, report employment plans consistent with the previous quarter. Job seekers in all four regions can expect to have a much easier time with their search than a year ago. The employment outlook is most positive in the West and weakest in the Northeast, marking the third consecutive quarter that Northeastern hiring levels have lagged other regions.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey is conducted in a total of 19 countries and territories, including interviews with more than 35,000 employers. In addition those in the United States, job seekers across Mexico, Hong Kong and New Zealand are likely to see a continuation of solid employment prospects. Employers in 17 of 19 countries and territories say they expect positive hiring activity in the coming quarter, with 14 countries reporting stronger hiring levels compared to one year ago. Employers in Germany, Mexico and Hong Kong reported their most optimistic hiring intentions since Manpower began surveying in these countries.

“The employment picture is notably improved from a year ago in most countries,” said Joerres. “However, seasonal hiring patterns are prominent in a number of countries where hiring is expected to soften moving from third quarter into the end of the year, when hiring typically slows.”

This trend is most apparent in Europe, where employers in six of 11 countries expect the year to close with less robust hiring activity, compared to the previous quarter. However, employers in eight of 11 countries anticipated hiring to be stronger compared to one year ago. Employers in the UK and Ireland were the most optimistic in Europe, while Italian employers reported their first-ever negative Net Employment Outlook, which means on balance more employers expect to reduce staff than to add them. The only other European country to report a negative outlook was Germany, where employers are considerably less pessimistic than they were at the beginning of the year.

The next Manpower Employment Outlook Survey will be released on Dec. 14, 2004 to report hiring expectations for the first quarter of 2005.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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