The global hiring outlook for the first quarter of 2008 remains healthy despite a slightly softer jobs forecast for the United States, a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc, one of the world's largest employment services companies, showed Tuesday.
The rise of China, India and Eastern Europe as economic powers means that any U.S. slowdown may have a more muted impact on the global jobs picture, said Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres.
"When you average it all in, it's a pretty healthy outlook," Joerres said.
Of the 27 countries and territories surveyed by Manpower, 12 reported hiring prospects up from the fourth quarter, while 14 indicated weaker hiring plans and one -- South Africa -- showed no change.
Italy, the Netherlands and France reported the best prospects since the survey began there in 2003. Ireland has the lowest hiring outlook in the survey.
Unchanged Hiring Pace in the U.S.
In the United States, a majority of employers expect no change in their hiring pace. But the U.S. net employment outlook, defined as the difference between those hiring and cutting staff, dipped 1 percentage point in the survey to a seasonally-adjusted level of 17, after three consecutive quarters at 18.
Sectors in the U.S. with the strongest prospects include mining, transportation and utilities. Those anticipating a downturn include construction, education, non-durable goods manufacturing, services, and public administration.
Finance, insurance and real estate, which Manpower treats as one sector, reported lower hiring plans compared with both a year ago and the previous quarter, reflecting concerns about U.S. housing and fallout from the subprime mortgage crisis.
Prospects are weakest in the U.S. Northeast, which has seen the biggest impact from the credit crunch, and where downturns are expected in construction and some types of manufacturing.
The West, by contrast, is looking up, Manpower said.
Past surveys have predicted trends in government employment data, and recent Department of Labor reports have reflected the steady outlook reported in the previous survey.
The Manpower survey, which began in 1962, showed steep drops in the hiring outlook before previous recessions, but is sending no such signal now, Joerres said.
"Right now it's a gradual slope," he said. "If you would see this drop off the shelf, it would say the effects of this other stuff are really starting to take hold."
When compared with a year earlier, 16 of the 27 indicated softer hiring plans, according to the survey by the employment services firm, which operates in more than 70 countries and territories.
None of the places surveyed reported a negative net employment outlook, Milwaukee-based Manpower said. Some large economies, including Germany and Italy, had posted negative numbers as recently as last year.
The increase in France, where surveys typically show little change, may reflect optimism over the labor market reforms promised by President Nicolas Sarkozy, Joerres said.
Ireland's outlook deteriorated as companies that poured in capital during the 1990s look to lower-wage countries.
"Ireland is coming up on more difficult times in the next few years, and the survey is reflecting that," Joerres said.
Shortages of skilled workers in Singapore and India translate into strong hiring prospects in those countries.
Elsewhere in Asia, the weakest hiring expectations are in Taiwan and in China, where higher wages and new labor rules go into effect at the start of 2008.
Manpower polled about 52,000 hiring managers and human resource directors, of which about 14,000 are U.S.-based. Manpower calls the survey the biggest of its kind.