Employers in most economies are more likely to add workers than three months ago, including those in the United States, but big gains are limited to booming emerging economies like Brazil, India and China, according to a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc.
Manpower's survey, considered a leading indicator of labor demand, suggests an employment recovery will continue in much of the world, but employers remain cautious. In the United States, large-scale job creation is unlikely in coming months.
The global employment services company said Tuesday its seasonally adjusted U.S. net employment outlook was plus-6 for the third quarter, up slightly from plus-5 in the previous survey. It was negative a year ago.
Manpower's index, based on interviews with 18,000 U.S. hiring managers, measures the difference between those who say they will add to their workforce and those who plan cuts. About 70 percent reported no change in their outlook, continuing a recent trend that shows many employers remain unconvinced about the sustainability of the current economic rebound.
"We'll go into the third quarter and see more of what we saw in the second -- no doubt improved BLS numbers, but not so improved that we're going to feel like we're out of the woods," Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said.
BLS refers to the U.S. government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports monthly employment figures and Friday said 431,000 jobs were added outside the farm sector in May. That was far fewer than expected, and growth in private payrolls also fell short of forecasts.
Encouraging economic signals include a production managers' index that indicates a recovering manufacturing sector, Joerres said. But U.S. employers are able to meet added demand with their existing workforce, and will resist adding new workers until they see credible evidence that demand is sustainable.
"To get that evidence, we may have to wait until the first quarter," Joerres said, noting that hiring is seasonally weak in the fourth quarter. He described the pace of a U.S. jobs recovery as "still very tepid."
Manpower's survey dates back to 1962 in the United States but has a shorter history in other countries. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company is active in 82 countries and makes most of its sales and profit outside the United States.
BRAZIL, INDIA, CHINA RANK HIGHEST
Manpower's global survey of hiring intentions, based on 61,000 interviews, found better jobs prospects in 23 of 36 countries and territories when compared with the second quarter, and all but four were higher from a year ago.
The strongest hiring prospects are again in emerging Asian economies like India and China, where companies enjoy both local and export demand. China's hiring outlook is the strongest since Manpower started surveying employers there five years ago, while India's has rebounded to a two-year high.
Prospects improved in Japan for the fourth consecutive quarter but remain the lowest in the region, partly a result of political turmoil.
"There's a lot of trepidation in the air in Japan, and as a result hiring is being depressed," Joerres said.
In Latin America, the majority of employers in Brazil anticipate taking on staff. Mexico can also expect a better hiring environment, especially in manufacturing and mining, but the hiring outlook dipped in Argentina.
In Europe, the weakest third-quarter hiring plans were reported in Italy, Ireland, Spain and Greece, while employers in larger economies like France, Germany and the United Kingdom are more willing to add workers over the next three months.
Manpower's third-quarter survey was conducted before a debt crisis in Greece led to a nearly $1 trillion European rescue plan. But Manpower's internal data suggests the crisis has had limited effect on the confidence of European employers.
"We've been seeing really no change in our business since the Greek credit crisis of a month ago," Joerres said.
More employers than last quarter expect to boost hiring in Central European economies, as well as in Spain, Sweden, Austria and Belgium, Manpower said. Prospects are down in Norway, Switzerland and in South Africa, which Manpower groups with Europe and the Middle East.