Hiring expected to grow in region


Job prospects in the Baltimore region look more promising than they did at this point last year, a new survey concludes, and probably will outpace hiring plans nationally in the first three months of next year.

Forty-six percent of local employers surveyed by Manpower Inc. said they plan to hire more workers from January to March, more than double the 19 percent that said they planned to expand their staffs during the first quarter of this year.

Of the 16,000 businesses surveyed nationwide, 24 percent said they expect to hire more workers during the first three months of next year, according to Manpower's figures released yesterday. That compares with 20 percent of the employers who expected to increase hiring during the first quarter of 2004.

The Baltimore region continues to benefit from the federal government's boost in defense spending and the economic strength from nearby Washington, economists said. Hiring in the region next quarter seems most likely in construction, manufacturing, transportation and public utilities as well as retail, the service sector and public administration, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

"This is pretty good news," said Anirban Basu, chief executive officer of Sage Policy Group, an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore. "The Baltimore metropolitan area is positioned to outperform the national economy."

Manpower also found that 7 percent of the companies surveyed in the Baltimore region said they would cut their staffs from January to March and that 35 percent said they aren't planning to change their payrolls in the quarter.

Manpower did not provide the number of companies included in its regional survey.

Maryland's employment picture has remained stronger than the national average for the past several years. The state unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in October, the latest figures available, compared with 5.5 percent nationally. The national jobless rate was 5.4 percent last month.

Some economists warn that the region's boom can't last forever. Federal spending might be slowing, said Scott Hoyt, a senior economist and Maryland analyst for Economy.com in West Chester, Pa.

"With the deficit and such, I think we're seeing some leveling off in growth rate there," Hoyt said.

He added that though construction remains strong, that too could slow later next year if mortgage interest rates rise as expected.

And the Baltimore region's anticipated hiring boost in the first quarter next year is down slightly from the current fourth quarter as the holiday shopping season prompts employers to take on temporary workers. Forty-eight percent the Baltimore companies surveyed by Manpower said they would add more workers between October and December.

Nationwide, 10 percent of the companies surveyed said they plan to shrink their staffs between January and March and 59 percent do not plan to make any hiring changes in the quarter.

"What a difference a year makes," said Jeffrey A. Joerres, chairman and chief executive of Manpower, in a statement. "The job picture moving into 2005 is decidedly more upbeat than it was at the start of 2004."

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