Jobs outlook at weakest level for three years

Employers’ hiring intentions have dropped to their weakest level in three years, a survey has found.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey found that the jobs market was “flat-lining”, with four-fifths of employers intending to either not hire or to cut back on staff during the first quarter of 2012.

An East/West divide was also reported, with employers in the East of the country found to be more optimistic about hiring than those in the West.

The survey, based on responses from 2,100 UK employers, found that those in the North-East of England were the most positive about hiring, with a net score of +10% for those looking to hire in the next three months, minus those looking to cut jobs. However, employers in the South-West reported a negative outlook for the first time in a decade, with a net score of -4%.

Manpower UK managing director Mark Cahill said that employers were adopting a “wait-and-see” approach to hiring in the face of Europe-wide fears about the economy.

“The 2012 job market sits on a knife edge. In some ways, this is a reflection of a weakening economy,” Cahill commented. “We hear stories about companies hoarding cash and not investing. In the same way, we see a number of business sectors battening down the hatches, holding onto existing levels of staff and not hiring with any great enthusiasm.”

He added: “We should not lose sight of the fact that there are still hundreds of thousands of vacancies out there. Employers continue to look for skilled and motivated candidates who show a real desire and determination to work.”

According to the survey, the finance and business services sector has moved from being the most optimistic hirer at the start of 2011 to one of the most pessimistic, with employers’ hiring intentions producing a net score +15 for the second quarter of 2011, falling to 0% in the latest figures for the first three months of the new year.

Employers in the utilities sector were the most optimistic, with the hiring intentions employers in the water, gas and electricity industries scoring a net score of +13%, a rise of 2% on the previous quarter.

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