A forward-looking measure of hiring intentions dipped slightly in the United States even as it improved in many other countries, according to a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc.
The survey offers a hint that jobs in Europe and Asia may recover earlier than in the United States, but it also raises questions about whether such a recovery could be cut short without the support of US consumers, Manpower said.
The global employment services company said its seasonally adjusted US net employment outlook slipped to minus-3 for the fourth quarter, from minus-2 in the prior quarter. A year ago, the index stood at plus-9, according to the survey released on Tuesday.
The index, based on interviews with 28,000 US employers, measures the difference between those who plan to add to their workforce and those who expect to cut staff.
Of 13 US industry sectors, employers in only one -- education and health services -- were more positive about jobs prospects than they were in the third quarter. Other sectors -- like construction, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services -- showed a deteriorating outlook.
“Companies are still not going to be in hiring mode,” said Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres. “They are in cautious mode.”
A mark of that caution is that two-thirds of US employers plan no change to staffing, a higher proportion than is typical, he added.
Manpower's outlook comes a few days after a US government report showed the jobless rate rose to a 26-year high of 9.7% in August even as the pace of job losses slowed.
Manpower's US survey dates back to 1962 and is considered a leading indicator of labor trends. The Milwaukee-based company does business in 80 countries and generates most sales and earnings outside the United States.
Manpower's international survey of 72,000 employers found improved hiring expectations in 20 of 34 countries and territories versus the prior quarter, though nearly all reported weaker hiring intentions compared with a year ago. In 15 countries and territories, the number of employers cutting jobs outweighed those planning to add jobs, Manpower said.
Prospects improved in several Latin American countries, were stronger or stable in much of Asia and Western Europe, but weaker in Eastern European countries.
In Mexico, as in the United States, hiring plans are the weakest in the survey's history. Optimism rose in Canada, reflecting better prospects in construction, finance and real estate.
Indian employers are the most optimistic in Asia, while hiring intentions also improved in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. The employment outlook was flat in Japan.
Manpower's survey, together with recent labor market and industrial output data, suggest Asia and Europe will emerge from recession before any US recovery. Joerres said consumers in Asia and Europe did not need to curtail their spending to the same extent as their American counterparts.
“You look at major countries like the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, they're all up,” Joerres said. "Their economies haven't had the same hits. Other than Spain, you didn't have a housing market as bad as this."
In Britain, a housing bust hurt the London area, but hiring plans are stronger in the Midlands, he said.
However, an European or Asian recovery could prove short-lived, because many economies still rely on exports, particularly to the United States.
“They can come out, but they can't sustain the coming out until the US starts spending,” Joerres said.
For example, Vietnam, where 30% of exports are US-bound, is unlikely to see a fast, V-shaped jobs recovery.
“You're not going to get the total V until that 30% starts buying,” he said. (Reuters)