Employment Outlook Gets a Small Boost

Job prospects for the nation's unemployed are modestly better for the second quarter and some critical industries are reporting notable gains, according to the latest employment outlook survey from Manpower Inc. (MAN).

The seasonally adjusted net employment outlook for the second quarter stands at 5%, Manpower said Tuesday, against a year-ago level of -2%. The outlook is not a gauge of employment, but rather measures the difference between firms that intend to bring on staff versus those that plan layoffs.

Nearly three-quarters of employers surveyed say they plan to keep staff levels stable, Manpower said, while 12 of 13 industry sectors surveyed said they plan to add staff during the second-quarter. "We continue to see encouraging signs in hiring activity in the U.S.," said Manpower CEO Jeff Joerres in a statement. "Key industries such as manufacturing and construction are seeing notable improvements on a year-over-year basis."

By region, the Northeast has the strongest outlook at 8%, followed by the South and West and 6%, Manpower said. Even the hard-hit Midwest, the weakest region in the country, reported a positive outlook of 4%. The local picture is likewise improving, Manpower said, with 94% of 201 metropolitan areas reporting either net hiring or at least no more net job losses, indicating cautious optimism is becoming more widespread geographically.

"U.S. hiring activity is still in neutral, but revving toward first gear," said Jonas Prising, Manpower president of the Americas, in a statement. "It's moving in the right direction, but it will take some time, with no major speed bumps, before it can accelerate."

The private Manpower report follows Friday's news from the Labor Department that although the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7%, the economy shed another 36,000 jobs in February. A Bloomberg News economists survey had forecast a loss of 50,000 jobs in the month and the unemployment rate to rise to 9.8% from January's 9.7%.

The revisions made to the previous two months also created a muddy picture of just how the trend is developing. The Labor Department now says the economy lost a revised 26,000 in January and 109,000 in December, compared to its previously released losses of 20,000 and 150,000, respectively.

In addition, the Labor Department's other, separate unemployment gauge, the U-6, which includes workers who can find only part-time work and discouraged workers, rose to 16.8% in February from 16.5% in January. All told since the recession started in December 2007, the economy has now lost more than 8.5 million jobs.
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