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Workplace hiring looks strong for 3rd quarter

SAN FRANCISCO — SAN FRANCISCO - U.S. employers are likely to maintain a brisk hiring pace in the third quarter, according to the quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Twenty percent of companies surveyed intend to hire workers in the third quarter on a seasonally adjusted net basis, matching second-quarter hiring plans that were the most optimistic since early 2001.

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That's up from a net hiring outlook of 7 percent a year ago, said Barbara Beck, executive vice president of North America operations at Manpower, a staffing company.

The seasonally adjusted net employment figure is derived from the percentage of employers planning to hire minus the percentage of those planning layoffs.

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It does not measure the number of jobs. Manpower surveys nearly 16,000 U.S. companies on their hiring plans each quarter.

"Employers are feeling confident that the recovery has legs," Beck said.

"Most employers have a higher level of confidence at this point, far exceeding what they had a year ago."

Historically, "the correlation is very tight between what employers say they're going to do [in the survey] and what they actually do," Beck said.

The Labor Department reported a gain of nearly 250,000 jobs last month. In contrast with the 2.7 million jobs lost from March 2001 to August 2003, 1.2 million jobs have been created this year.

Still, many Americans continue to struggle with long-term unemployment. Last month, 1.8 million unemployed Americans had been without jobs for six months or more, according to the Labor Department.

Those long-term unemployed were 21.9 percent of the total 8.2 million unemployed, one of the highest percentages since the early 1980s.

Among 10 industries studied by Manpower, education reported the strongest jump in hiring intentions compared with last quarter, with a net hiring outlook of 16 percent for the coming quarter vs. 8 percent for the second quarter.

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Construction companies reported a drop in net hiring compared with the second quarter, falling to 21 percent from 28 percent.

"We have to put that in perspective," Beck said. The second-quarter construction outlook "was at the highest level since the 1970s. Within construction, there is still a healthy optimism that employers will be hiring."

The wholesale and retail trade industry expects a hiring gain of 22 percent vs. 23 percent in the second quarter, and the services sector also is at 22 percent, compared with 21 percent in the last quarter.

Durable-goods manufacturers reported a 21 percent gain, up from 19 percent in the previous quarter, and nondurable-goods manufacturers also expected a 21 percent gain, up from 18 percent.

Transportation and public utilities came in with an 18 percent gain, up from 16 percent, while the finance, insurance and real estate sector posted a 19 percent gain, up from 16 percent a quarter ago.

Mining was at 21 percent, up from 14 percent, and public agencies expected a net hiring gain of 8 percent vs. 9 percent.

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The West posted a 23 percent net gain in hiring intentions, up from 20 percent in the second quarter, making it the only region to indicate growth. The South posted the second-highest expectation at 22 percent, matching its second-quarter outlook. The Midwest and the Northeast reported 18 percent net hiring gains, with the Midwest down slightly from the 19 percent reported in the second quarter and the Northeast up slightly from 17 percent.


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