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Manpower survey foresees stable hiring in first quarter

What officials at a research and employment services firm call respectable, an Allen County economy watcher calls baby steps.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, released today, shows that 14 percent of Hoosier employers expect to hire more workers from January to March, while 8 percent intend to cut payrolls.

Most companies – 75 percent – will keep the status quo. Three percent are uncertain of their first-quarter hiring plans.

The survey polled 282 Indiana businesses and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.61 percentage points.

Manpower spokesman Pat Hevrdejs said employers foresee a stable hiring pace compared to one year ago. The trouble with that assessment is that a year ago, 16 percent of the firms polled were upbeat; more companies actually said they would hire more people.

That is one reason Ellen Cutter, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, has guarded optimism.

“There is activity, and things are picking up, and lower unemployment is a good sign,” she said. “But a lot of the hiring taking place is at companies hiring one or two people here and there.”

Truth be told, there are only a handful of companies making major employment announcements, she said.

“Baby steps, certainly,” Cutter said.

Anxiety over the Affordable Care Act continues to weigh on employers’ minds, said Joel Daas, area manager for Manpower in Fort Wayne.

“There are still a lot of questions about its impact and what it’s going to do,” he said.

Nonetheless, the Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area saw its jobless rate dip to 6.6 percent in October from 7 percent in September, based on figures from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The showing was the third consecutive month unemployment declined.

Metro Fort Wayne consists of Allen, Wells and Whitley counties. If the region continues to shave people from the unemployment ranks, Cutter and others will be better able to gauge how the area is faring.

“You have to pay attention to that,” she said.

For the coming quarter, job prospects for Hoosiers appear best in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, information and financial activities, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.

Nationally, of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed in the country by Manpower, 17 percent expect to add to their workforces, and 7 percent anticipate a decline in payrolls during the first part of the year.

Seventy-three percent of employers won’t make changes to staff levels, while the remaining 3 percent of the companies are undecided.