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Employers turn upbeat on European recruitment

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The majority of European employers anticipate increasing hiring in 2014, according to the latest employment outlook survey from human resources consultancy ManpowerGroup.

The global survey looked at the hiring plans of over 65,000 employers across 42 countries for the first quarter of 2014. It found that in 16 out of 24 European countries, the majority of employers expected to increase rather than decrease hiring.

This time last year, only 11 European countries foresaw increased hiring in the first quarter of 2013.

"Employers are cautiously optimistic regarding their hiring intentions," said Darryl Green, ManpowerGroup President overseeing Northern Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

"Confidence is slowly returning but many are still erring on the side of caution, with positive outlooks reported but at relatively low levels for the time being. With further economic improvement this number could begin to climb higher."

Polish, Hungarian and Greek employers were the most optimistic on hiring in Europe. Manpower noted that Greece had the greatest sentiment improvement year-on-year of any country, with its hiring forecast shifting upwards by 17 percent.

The survey also noted strong hiring confidence in the finance sectors of Germany, France and the U.K. Meanwhile, Spain and Italy saw a marked increase in hiring confidence in the agriculture sector.

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Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup President for Southern Europe and the Americas, said: "More still needs to be done in countries like Italy, Spain and Ireland to improve the confidence of employers, but it is overwhelmingly positive that we have reached the most encouraging levels since the recession began."

As Prising stressed, Europe still had challenges — the majority of employers in six countries foresaw decreased hiring in the first three months of next year. The countries concerned were Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Finland, Ireland and Italy.

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Manpower noted that Italy was showing the "biggest signs of strain this quarter", and that even though the Italian agriculture sector outlook was optimistic, there was a large decrease in hiring expectations in the energy sector.

"It is clear that the emergence from recession has not translated for Italy thus far," the survey said.

On the other side of the scale, U.K. employers seemed to be feeling the benefit of the country's economic uptick. Only the construction sector reported a negative hiring outlook, while finance and energy were the most optimistic.

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