First-quarter hiring to grow in 2005

/ Source: The Associated Press

American companies plan to hire slightly more employees in the first three months of 2005 than they did a year ago, especially in finance, insurance and real estate, a new hiring survey says.

Twenty-four percent of 16,000 U.S. employers surveyed said they plan to increase overall hiring from January to March 2005, compared to 20 percent who said that in the first quarter of 2004, according to the quarterly report released Tuesday by Manpower Inc.

Still, hiring in the first quarter of 2005 was expected to be about the same as in the last quarter of 2004.

“I don’t think we will see more robustness in the labor market,” said Jeff Joerres, chairman and chief executive officer of Manpower, a global staffing company based in the Milwaukee suburb of Glendale. “We’re just going to see a steady appetite of companies to hire people.”

Hiring in manufacturing, and the finance, insurance and real estate sector was expected to be among the strongest of the 10 industries surveyed, Manpower reported. Finance, insurance and real estate companies haven’t been as confident in their job forecasts in about 25 years, Manpower reported.

Joerres said those industries had trimmed a fair number of jobs in 2001 and 2002, but was now resetting itself. There is also greater demand for products with a stronger economy.

“It’s kind of a proxy for all of the other areas,” he said.

About 28 percent of businesses in the durable-goods manufacturing sector said they expect to add jobs in the first quarter.

Durable goods are products that are expected to have a long life, such as furniture and appliances. Nondurable goods are used in a short period of time, such as cosmetics.

Joerres said employers were continuing to invest in large equipment and he expects the manufacturing industry to continue to do well at least through 2005.

Construction employers had scaled back plans to hire in the last quarter of 2004 but 21 percent of those surveyed said they plan to increase hiring in the first three months of 2005.

“That will be one (area) to watch as interest rates go up,” Joerres said.

Government officials report the national economy added a net 112,000 jobs in November, considerably fewer jobs than analysts had expected and a deceleration from the 303,000 positions added in October.

The Manpower survey found that one in 10 companies expected to cut employees, 59 percent don’t plan to change their staffing levels and seven percent were unsure of their plans.

Ernie Goss, an economics professor at Creighton University, in Omaha, Neb., said demand for American products abroad has increased because of the lower dollar, especially compared to the euro.

“Your products are cheaper so they end up buying more of your products and you then hire more people to make those products,” he said.

Hiring prospects in the Northeast and West remain the same as in the previous quarter, while employers in the South plan a slight increase in jobs and those in the Midwest a slight decrease.

But Manpower said generally, job prospects for the first quarter of 2005 are stronger than a year ago in all sectors.