Less than a quarter of Australian employers expect to increase hiring in the first quarter of 2012, a report reveals. Employers in the services sector are more confident than those in mining.
The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, conducted by the ManpowerGroup, is based on the responses of 2,251 Australian employers.
Survey participants were asked, “How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of March 2012 as compared to the current quarter?”
The survey reveals 23% of employers expect to increase hiring in Q1 2012. However, 65% forecast no change and 10% expect a decrease in hiring.
Quarter-over-quarter, employers report a slight decline of 3% in the net employment outlook, while hiring plans weaken by 8% when compared with Q1 2011.
“We have seen a downward trend for the employment outlook since the beginning of 2011,” says Lincoln Crawley, managing director of ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand.
“[However,] it’s still far more optimistic than the post-GFC period, where it plummeted to zero.”
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“Clearly, the optimism we saw at the start of the recovery has stalled, so it seems that these levels may be the new normal.”
The survey also provides a clear snapshot of the nation’s patchwork economy.
Manufacturing and retail continue to drag down the national average, with a seasonally-adjusted net employment outlook of +6% and +7% respectively.
At the same time last year, the outlook for the manufacturing sector stood at +19% while retail was similarly upbeat at +14%.
In contrast, employers in the mining and construction sector continue to anticipate a favourable hiring pace, reporting a net employment outlook of +19% through the first three months of 2012.
However, employer confidence in the services sector is the strongest of all, the survey shows, with employers reporting a net employment outlook of +21%.
Crawley says while the mining boom continues to boost the jobs forecast, the services sector is “firing on all cylinders right now”.
“Consumer preferences are changing, with some commentators suggesting spending on retail items is taking a backseat to personal, entertainment and recreational services,” Crawley says.
Upbeat hiring plans are also evident in the finance, insurance and real estate sector – where employers report an outlook of +17% – and the transportation and utilities sector (+11%).
But when compared with Q1 2011, hiring prospects are weaker in all seven industry sectors, with decreases of 13% for the manufacturing sector and 12% for the transportation and utilities sector.