Business

Hiring forecast is 'flat' for Triangle, survey finds

Posted March 8, 2011 11:41 a.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2011 12:48 p.m. EST

— People looking for work or a new job may not have as many opportunities as they might think, even as the local, state and national unemployment rates are dropping.

Staffing firm Manpower predicts a “flat job market” in the Triangle for April through June.

Statewide, North Carolina has one of the worst hiring forecasts, Manpower adds.

Unemployment in the Triangle stood at 7.7 percent, and the statewide rate was 9.7 percent in December. January data will be released on Thursday, according to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

Manpower bases its employment forecasts on surveys of companies.

In the Triangle, 11 percent of firms surveyed plan to add jobs this spring while 11 percent plan cutbacks. The net employment outlook of “0” compares to a net increase of 10 percent for the first quarter of the year and 16 percent for the second quarter last year.

Most firms – 72 percent – expect staffing to remain the same. The remaining 6 percent were unsure.

“Employers are much less confident about hiring plans for the second quarter of 2011 compared to Quarter 1,” said Manpower Triangle executive Michael Doyle.

“Employers foresee significantly weaker staffing plans compared to one year ago,” he added.

Job prospects are best in financial activities, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, Manpower said.

Statewide, a net 5 percent of employers expect to add jobs. That’s a slight increase from 4 percent in the previous quarter.

Nationally, Manpower said a net 8 percent of employers are planning to hire this coming quarter.

NCSU economist disagrees

Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, said he “respectfully disagrees” with the Manpower findings.

“I project an improving job market, both nationally and in the Triangle,” he said. “Consumers and businesses are beginning to spend more.

“Sales of technology products are especially up - and, of course, this is a very important sector to the Triangle.”

Walden said gas prices are a source of concern, but he pointed out that his review of data, not interviews or surveys, point to economic growth.

“Despite increasing gas prices, I am seeing a growing economy,” Walden said.

He forecasts a 2.5 percent increase in jobs in the Triangle this year and an overall decline of half a percentage point in the state’s jobless rate.

Walden added two caveats, however.

“Two potential drags on the Triangle economy are state funded jobs, which may be reduced as a result of the tighter state budget, and the sputtering housing market,” he said. “But outside firms continue to look at the Triangle as one of the strongest growth markets (the recent Census numbers support this), so I project that overall, the Triangle job market in 2011 will be the strongest since 2007.”