Employer confidence sinks as manufacturing stalls

Employer confidence has sunk to its lowest level in five years following uncertainty from the current financial crisis, a new survey from recruitment firm Hudson reveals.

Employer confidence has sunk to its lowest level in five years following uncertainty from the current financial crisis, a new survey from recruitment firm Hudson reveals.

The report, which surveyed over 7,200 hiring managers, shows the number of employers likely to hire new staff in the October to December period has dropped from 40.8% to 33% from the previous quarter.

Gary Lazzarotto, Managing Director of Hudson Australia and New Zealand, says the numbers are “the lowest level of confidence recorded in five years”.

“Businesses appear to be moving into a holding pattern until they have a clear vision of what’s ahead,” he says.

“It’s important to remember the Australian employment market was reporting record high levels of confidence this time last year, so even in light of the declines the market still remains quite strong.”

Despite the low confidence, the report maintains employers are on the look-out.

“Employers are overwhelmingly either increasing or holding their permanent staff levels steady as opposed to taking action to reduce headcount,” the report says.

The survey comes as the Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Manufacturing Index reveals manufacturing activity fell for the fourth successive month in September.

The index maintained stability through last month, jumping 0.2 points to 47.2, but manufacturing activity fell in every state except for Western Australia.

Graeme Billings, PricewaterhouseCoopers Global Leader of Industrial Manufacturing, says manufacturing is caught between declining demand and rising prices.

“Given the continuing uncertainties in the world economic outlook and its likely flow-on through to manufacturers’ international and domestic markets, these pressures on profitability are unlikely to ease over the next few quarters, notwithstanding some easing in the costs of fuel.”

Heather Ridout, Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Chief Executive, says softening consumer demand and global financial uncertainty have added to the downfall.

“The ongoing decline in new orders reported in the Australian PMI suggests that the weakness in manufacturing is likely to persist, particularly with employment growth showing signs of losing momentum.”

“In these conditions a further reduction in official interest rates would be a welcome move by the Reserve Bank,” Ridout says.

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