A forward-looking measure of hiring expectations held steady in the United States and other large economies amid signs employment is starting to stabilize, but prospects in several countries worsened, according to a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc.

The global staffing services company said its seasonally adjusted U.S. net employment outlook remained at minus-2 for the third quarter, unchanged from the second quarter but down from a reading of plus-12 a year ago.

The index measures the difference between employers who plan to add jobs and those who expect to cut them. The company adds seasonal adjustments in countries where its survey data goes back at least four years.

Overall it's pointing to some real stability, which is massively important, Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said, adding that Friday's U.S. jobs report also hinted at stability.

Last week, the government reported the loss of 345,000 jobs outside the U.S. farm sector in May, the fewest cuts since September, with the unemployment rate jumping to 9.4 percent. The job cuts were smaller than economists expected.

U.S. sectors where hiring managers expect to add workers include construction, wholesale and retail trade, nondurable goods manufacturing and leisure and hospitality. Sectors in which prospects are worse than three months ago include government, education and health services, according to the survey released on Tuesday.

Manpower's U.S. survey, based on interviews with about 28,000 employers, dates back to 1962 and is considered a leading indicator of labor trends. The index peaked this decade near 25, shortly before the 2001 recession.

The Milwaukee-based company does business in 80 countries and generates the bulk of its sales and profits outside the United States. Its international survey included responses from 70,000 employers.


Employers in other large labor markets -- including the United Kingdom, Japan and China -- also indicated stable hiring outlooks, while those in Mexico, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia said prospects are better than in the second quarter.

However, the employment outlook worsened slightly in Canada and some large European labor markets, such as France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Manpower's Joerres said the declines were modest, reflecting restrictive European labor laws.

It's a trend down, but it's nothing really dramatic, Joerres said.

Hiring activity is forecast to be positive in Norway, Poland and the Czech Republic, and the survey showed sequential improvement in Ireland, Sweden and Spain.

Employment prospects deteriorated in India as employers in the service industry anticipate weaker demand from offshore clients. Still, Indian employers were the most optimistic in the Asia-Pacific region with a net employment outlook of 19, seasonally adjusted.

Joerres said it was too early to tell whether world labor markets would stage a synchronized recovery, and too soon to predict what shape any recovery would take. 

Economists have debated whether to expect a U-shaped gradual recovery, a V-shaped fast one, or a W-shaped recovery that includes a second dip after an initial period of improvement.

Early indications are it's not going to be a sharp V, Joerres said.

Employers are in wait-and-see mode, he added, so every fresh piece of information takes on added importance. Rising interest rates and $70 oil help create an environment of uncertainty for employers.

While it might be interesting to do some anticipatory hiring, it's just not possible, Joerres said. Other data points say all is not good yet.