By Shobhana Chandra, Bloomberg News
WASHINGTON — Employers say they plan to slow the pace of hiring in the fourth quarter as they stay guarded about the economic outlook, according to a private survey released Tuesday.
Manpower Inc., the world’s second-largest provider of temporary workers, said its employment index fell to 7, the first decline in nine quarters, from 8 in the July to September period on a seasonally adjusted basis. A smaller share expected to add workers compared with the prior survey, while the portion of those looking to cut jobs grew.
The readings echo the payrolls report, which showed the job market stagnated in August, indicating the world’s largest economy is at risk of stalling two years after the end of the last recession. Companies are waiting for an improvement in demand before they agree to expand staff and ramp up investment.
“Employers are hesitant to make big decisions when it comes to hiring,” Jonas Prising, president of the Americas for Milwaukee-based Manpower, said in a statement. “When all eyes are focused on jobs as a true indicator for economic stability, our survey results suggest no significant hiring increases at least through yearend.”
Before adjusting for seasonal differences, the report showed that 16 percent of employers surveyed plan to add workers in the October to December period, down from 20 percent in the previous three months. The share of those projecting workforce reductions rose to 11 percent from 8 percent.
The labor market remains difficult, other data have showed. Payrolls were unchanged in August and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, according to Labor Department figures on Sept. 2. Company payrolls rose by 17,000, the smallest gain since a drop in February 2010. Government agencies cut 17,000 positions.
Manpower’s fourth-quarter employment index was up from 6 percent in the same period last year on a seasonally adjusted basis. The measure subtracts the percentage of employers planning to cut jobs from those looking to hire, and adjusts the results for seasonal variations.
About seven of every 10 employers said they anticipated staff levels will not change in the final three months of this year, an outlook that differs little from the previous quarter. Employers in 11 of the 13 industries surveyed had a positive hiring outlook, matching the prior quarter. The plans were led by retail and wholesale trade with a net 17 percent intending to add staff, followed by mining, at 15 percent.
Fourth-quarter hiring intentions turned negative at construction businesses and stayed negative at government agencies.
Employers in all four major U.S. regions in the Manpower survey expected hiring to increase in the October to December quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, with those in the Midwest and South showing the strongest outlook, at 8 percent.
Manpower interviewed more than 18,000 employers in the U.S. The survey is conducted quarterly, and the margin of error for U.S. data is plus or minus 0.6 percentage point.