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Global Employment Expected to Show Positive Signs in First Quarter of 2011

By SHRM Online staff  12/10/2010
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Results for the first quarter 2011 global Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released by Manpower Inc. Dec. 7, 2010, suggest a more positive start to the new year’s hiring for the global labor market than was seen in 2010.

Data reveals improved hiring expectations from 12 months earlier in 28 of 39 countries and territories, including the G7 countries of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, where hiring plans are stable or improved from the fourth quarter of 2010 and the same time in 2009. Despite continued mixed results across Europe, German employers are reporting their strongest hiring plans since early 2008. Job prospects continue to be robust across the Asia Pacific region with Chinese and Indian employers reporting the most optimistic hiring intentions globally.

"The stability and incremental improvement reflected in the data for the G7 countries indicates progress toward recovery for the global labor market,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, chairman and CEO of Manpower Inc. “In fact, net employment outlooks for the G7 countries are all in positive territory for the first time since the third quarter of 2008. Nonetheless, the global market still has a long way to go as employers are not yet confident enough to hire for permanent positions on any noteworthy scale. With workforces stretched so thin in recovering markets, we're seeing companies experience a choke point as demand picks up—at this point companies are either hiring very selectively and/or increasing their use of contingent labor.”

Joerres added: “The employment picture is very different in the Asia Pacific market, where employers are feeling the talent crunch in the face of strong demand and are working hard to recruit and retain employees."

The Manpower survey shows that employers in 32 of 39 countries and territories expect varying degrees of positive hiring activity in the first three months of 2011, with those in India, China, Taiwan, Brazil, Turkey and Singapore reporting the strongest hiring plans. In contrast, employers in Greece, the Czech Republic, Austria, Ireland, Spain and Romania report the weakest—and only—negative forecasts globally. New employers added to the survey during the quarter represent Bulgaria, Slovenia and Turkey.

Employer hiring plans continue to be mixed across the 21 countries surveyed in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, with positive activity expected in 14 countries. While net employment outlooks weakened in 11 countries from the third quarter of 2010, a year-over-year comparison reveals stronger outlooks in 12 countries. Hiring activity in the EMEA region is expected to be strongest in Turkey, Germany and Sweden; hiring is expected to be weakest in Greece and the Czech Republic. The strong hiring pace expected in Turkey is attributable in part to demand in the construction sector, where 45 percent of employers intend to add staff.

Germany Is Bright Spot

"The bright spot in Europe continues to be Germany, where the unemployment rate is at its lowest in 18 years and engineers and financial professionals continue to be in high demand,” said Joerres. “In fact, the hiring forecast from finance and business services employers is the strongest first-quarter outlook since we began surveying the German market in 2003. In contrast, employer hiring confidence in the Greek and Spanish markets continues to erode. However, data for Italy shows improved hiring expectations for the third consecutive quarter, resulting in the first positive forecast from Italian employers in more than two years."

Employer hiring expectations for the first quarter of 2011 continue to be strong in the Asia Pacific region, where job prospects have improved year over year in all eight countries and territories surveyed. Compared to three months earlier, job prospects are improved or remain stable in six countries and territories. Regional hiring plans continue to be strongest in India, China and Taiwan and weakest in Japan, despite a cautiously optimistic forecast from employers.

"In India and China, employer demand remains high. Individuals with in-demand skills continue to be poached by rival firms making engagement and retention strategies a critical priority for both foreign and domestic organizations," said Joerres. "Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturers—particularly those in textiles—are being challenged with worker shortages, rapidly rising wages and competition from other low-cost countries."

Across the 10 countries surveyed in the Americas region, forecasts from employers are stronger for the first quarter of 2011 than they were for the first quarter of 2010 in all countries except Guatemala; they are mixed compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. However, all countries in the region should experience generally positive hiring activity in the first quarter of 2011. Regional hiring plans are most optimistic in Brazil and Peru and least optimistic in Guatemala and the U.S., although the report from U.S. employers has improved slightly from the fourth quarter of 2010 and at the same time in 2009.

"Seasonally adjusted data for the United States indicates the most optimistic first-quarter hiring sentiment in three years, yet 73 percent of employers indicate they will keep staff levels unchanged," said Joerres. "So while we're seeing positive signals in the data, only time will tell if we've reached the inflection point in the U.S. labor market recovery,” he said.

“On the other hand, the enthusiasm in the Brazilian market continues to be bolstered by the services sector, where over half of employers are telling us they will increase their payrolls in the next three months,” Joerres added. “In Mexico and Argentina, opportunities for job seekers should be much improved compared to 12 months ago, particularly in the Mexican manufacturing sector where employer hiring intentions remain the most optimistic in eight years."

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