Job prospects have improved dramatically in emerging markets like China compared with three months ago, but the fourth-quarter hiring outlook dipped slightly in the United States and Germany, according to a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc.
The reading -- which subtracts employers who plan to cut jobs from those who plan to add them -- is above levels of a year ago when more employers expected staff cuts, but it reflects continued caution among U.S. employers.
In the United States, the net employment outlook was a seasonally adjusted plus-5, down slightly from plus-6 last quarter.
Manpower's survey, a leading indicator of labor demand, shows global employers remain wary about expanding staff even as their own business prospects improve and suggests it is too soon to rule out a double-dip recession. Developed countries increasingly stand in contrast to emerging economies, where jobs prospects are at peak levels.
Emerging markets are the ones leading the global labor market recovery, said Jeff Joerres, chief executive of the global employment services company. They're a bit of an island.
Globally, the net employment outlook was highest in China, followed by Taiwan and India.
At a seasonally adjusted 47, China's outlook for the coming quarter is up 16 points from the third-quarter survey and up from 8 a year earlier. That strength partly reflects more domestic demand within China's economy rather than export-led growth, Manpower said.
Hong Kong, Argentina, Ireland, Canada and Mexico were among the 14 economies where hiring prospects have improved since the third-quarter survey. However, prospects were flat or weaker in 22 countries and territories.
All but three countries -- notably Greece, with its debt crisis -- showed stronger expectations versus a year ago.
Manpower's global survey is based on 62,000 interviews with human resources directors and other managers. Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Manpower is active in 82 countries and makes the bulk of its sales and profit outside the United States.
DOING MORE WITH LESS
In the United States, employers' caution was underscored by the number of companies that said they have no plans to change hiring in either direction: 71 percent said so, up 1 percentage point from the third quarter.
There's a standstill here, Joerres said. Companies have no confidence, and while they have demand, it's not at such a robust level that they have to start hiring.
Manpower conducted interviews with 18,000 U.S. employers for its survey, which dates back to 1962 and is considered a predictor of labor trends.
The results come a few days after the U.S. government's August employment report showed a smaller-than-expected drop in non-farm payrolls, with the unemployment rate edging up to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent.
Increased hiring is seen in the education and health services sector while in mining, durable goods manufacturing and wholesale and retail sales hiring is expected to decrease.
Manpower said a global double-dip recession is still possible, albeit not likely, given persistent uncertainty over sovereign debt problems and U.S. real estate and abrupt shifts in sentiment toward the euro currency.
Its CEO added that the recent speed of financial news headlines, and resulting shifts in mood, were almost comical, as years' worth of market gyrations occur within a few weeks.
Clients still look at this as a recovery that is occurring
and their businesses are getting better, but the notion of uncertainty, the ability to forecast, has gone to almost zero visibility, which will affect hiring dramatically, Joerres said.
In Europe, Swiss employers are the most likely to create jobs between now and the end of the year, with the highest survey reading in the paper's five-year history in that country, partly reflecting hiring in finance and business services. The climate for job seekers is also more favorable in Belgium, Norway and Spain.
Readings in Germany, France, Netherlands and Austria were down slightly from the previous quarter; Britain's was unchanged. Survey readings in Europe tend to move in small increments partly because employers face greater restrictions.
In Latin America, where Manpower's survey has a shorter history and is therefore not seasonally adjusted, the hiring outlook is strongest in Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica.
Hiring plans are up in Canada, reflecting strength in parts of the manufacturing economy.
Japan showed no change from the prior quarter, but the survey reading is well up from last year. Indian job seekers in areas like public administration and education face booming prospects, Manpower said, even as India's overall reading was down modestly.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)