SMEs on the lookout for new workers: survey

Small businesses are cautiously optimistic about the fourth quarter, with the sector more likely than large firms to hire new staff in the period according to a survey of 1500 employers released yesterday.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey found small businesses plan to increase employment by 14% in the coming quarter, marking a 1% rise from the last quarter and an 8% improvement compared to this time last year.

Although medium-sized businesses are looking to increase employment by 7% next quarter, their outlook has fallen 5% from the previous quarter and dropped 2% year-on-year.

Across the country, 20% of employers surveyed said they were planning to hire more staff, 67% said they were not planning on making any changes and 12% have plans to let workers go.

Mining and construction sector employers increased their net employment outlook to 9%, signifying an 11 point improvement from this time last year, while the transport, utilities, finance, insurance and real estate industries all indicated reduced hiring quarter-on-quarter despite overall positive employment.

According to Lincoln Crawley, managing director of ManpowerGroup ANZ, the strong small business employment forecasts are a positive sign.

“Small-to-medium enterprises employ 63% of the Australian workforce and make up 96% of all business. So it’s encouraging to see employers in those categories looking to hire,” Crawley said in a statement.

Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business Australia, told SmartCompany the figures are not a complete cause for celebration.

“This is probably a sign that there is a lack of confidence—that figure of 20% really needs to be up in the 30s,” says Strong.

“What this shows is that we need to start talking the facts around the economy, and stop talking ‘woe is me, budget emergency’,” he says. “There is no budget emergency.”

Strong says figures showing small businesses are more optimistic about the fourth quarter than larger businesses are predictable.

 “Small businesses are by their nature optimistic—you wouldn’t do it otherwise,” says Strong. “So I’m never surprised to see these figures.”


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