Reporting the most optimistic hiring expectations in more than two years, United States employers anticipate small staffing gains for Quarter 1 2011, according to the seasonally adjusted results of the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly by Manpower Inc. The adjusted Outlook for Quarter 1 2011 is +9 percent, up from +5 percent during the same period last year and +5 percent during Quarter 4 2010.

This quarter's survey reveals:

  • Five straight quarters of employment growth: Employers report a positive overall hiring Outlook since the start of 2010, according to seasonally adjusted data.
  • Widespread stability: The percentage of employers planning to keep staff levels unchanged persists at unsurpassed levels, and those in seven of the 13 industry sectors surveyed expect to remain relatively stable compared to Quarter 4 2010.
  • Current outlook still below past decade’s average: Despite positive signals, the Quarter 1 2011 Outlook is nearly five percentage points below the average Outlook from 2001 to 2010.

"Across nearly all geographies in the world, the confidence to do additional hiring is improving," said Manpower chairman and CEO Jeff Joerres. "However, like the U.S., the lack of robust demand for products and services is creating a persistent level of uncertainty."

Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed, 14 percent anticipate an increase in staff levels in their Quarter 1 2011 hiring plans, while 10 percent expect a decrease in payrolls, resulting in a Net Employment Outlook of +4 percent. When seasonally adjusted, the Net Employment Outlook becomes +9 percent. Seventy- three percent of employers expect no change in their hiring plans. The final 3 percent of employers indicate they are undecided about their hiring intentions.

"The fact that hiring expectations are trending upward is an encouraging sign," said Jonas Prising, Manpower president of the Americas. "This quarter's survey responses paint a picture of a job market that is easing up, although not as quickly as anyone would like. We are still stuck in first gear, but the ongoing sector-wide improvement we have seen over the last year suggests that the labor market is ready to shift to a higher gear in 2011."

Employers in 11 of the 13 industry sectors surveyed have a positive Outlook for Quarter 1 2011: Leisure & Hospitality (+12 percent), Professional & Business Services (+11 percent), Information (+10 percent), Wholesale & Retail Trade (+10 percent), Mining (+6 percent), Durable Goods Manufacturing (+6 percent), Nondurable Goods Manufacturing (+6 percent), Education & Health Services (+6 percent), Other Services (+4 percent), Financial Activities (+4 percent) and Transportation & Utilities (+2 percent). The January-March 2011 Outlook is negative in the Construction (-9 percent) industry, while Government (0 percent) hiring is expected to be flat. Employers in two industry sectors, Mining and Wholesale & Retail Trade, expect their hiring pace to decrease compared to the previous quarter, while those in three industry sectors, Information, Education & Health Services and Leisure & Hospitality, anticipate staff levels picking up. Hiring plans are relatively stable in the remaining industry sectors.

Compared to one year ago, employers in all four U.S. geographic regions surveyed anticipate an increased pace of hiring. Employers in the Midwest and South have the most optimistic view, with a Net Employment Outlook of +10 percent. The Outlook is +9 percent for employers in the Northeast and +7 percent for those in the West. When adjusting for seasonal variations, employers in the Northeast, Midwest and West anticipate a moderate increase in hiring compared to one year ago at this time, while employers in the South expect a slight increase. Quarter over quarter, employers in the West report the strongest growth in job prospects with a six point increase.

*The Net Employment Outlook, often shortened to simply Outlook or NEO, is derived by taking the percentage of employers anticipating an increase in hiring activity and subtracting from this the percentage of employers expecting a decrease in hiring activity.