Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Survey paints bright
holiday job picture

Retail, wholesale and construction
present the strongest prospects

Seasonal job prospects for the holidays are looking bright in Honolulu, according to a survey released today by Manpower Inc.

The Manpower survey found that 17 percent of local companies interviewed plan to hire more employees in the fourth quarter, while 3 percent intend to reduce their work force. Another 77 percent say they expect to maintain current staffing levels, and 3 percent said they are not certain of their hiring plans.

Manpower spokeswoman Doris Hannaford said the Honolulu employment forecast covering October to December was brighter than the outlook for the prior quarter.

"The Honolulu-area employment forecast for the coming quarter is more upbeat than it was in the third quarter when 7 percent of the companies interviewed predicted an increase in hiring activity and 7 percent planned to decrease the hiring pace," Hannaford said.

The strongest job prospects are in the construction, wholesale and retail trades and services sectors, the survey found.

The predicted strong showing for retail is not surprising to Carol Pregill, executive director of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii industry group.

"I do know that based on national predictions, the back-to-school period was very good. On the whole, retailers are more upbeat about the holiday season. It seems consumers are continuing to spend," she said.

Likewise, the local construction industry, buoyed for the last couple of years by plenty of residential real estate development and now gearing up for the upcoming plan to privatize military housing, is looking forward to continuing the same pattern.

"Construction is doing well and will get even better with the military projects. I can tell just by our job calls and the requests for different skills by different companies," said Mel Kalama, administrative assistant at the Laborers International Union of North America Local 368.

In fact, business is so good, the union is going back through its old lists of available personnel and recalling people who had been on the waiting list, Kalama said. It is also ramping up its training and apprenticeship program.

"We have maybe 100 to 150 in the training program. Every month, there is a class going on," he said.

Of the 16,000 employers that were surveyed by Manpower at the national level, 22 percent said they plan to increase hiring activity for the October-to-December period, while 11 percent expect a decrease in employment opportunities.

Another 62 percent said they expected no change in hiring, while 5 percent said they were uncertain about staffing plans.


Slight rise seen
in U.S.-wide hiring

MILWAUKEE >> Hiring will improve slightly nationwide in the last few months of the year, but not enough to make much difference to job seekers, according to a survey by staffing company Manpower Inc.

Companies anticipate a small increase in hiring in the fourth quarter of 2003, which would reverse a downward trend that started in the first quarter, according to Manpower's quarterly survey of 16,000 businesses being released today.

"There will still be a lot of angst and difficulty in finding a job," said Jeffrey Joerres, Manpower's chief executive officer and chairman. "The market is still tight, companies are still cautious but there is enough demand in their own organizations that they'll have to relieve that pressure a bit by hiring some people."

The survey found 22 percent of companies expect to hire more people in the fourth quarter, while 11 percent intend to cut jobs. The rest anticipate no change or are uncertain about hiring prospects in the period from October to December.

The results, when seasonally adjusted, mark the first improvement in job prospects since the first quarter of 2003 but still are not as strong as they were a year ago. In the fourth quarter of 2002, 24 percent expected to hire more people, and 9 percent planned to cut workers.

"We have had a lot of false starts over the last two years, and this may prove to be that as well," Joerres said.

Manpower, which is based in Glendale, Wis., and is the nation's largest staffing company, started the survey more than 40 years ago.

John Tirinzonie, a labor economist with the Connecticut Department of Labor, also anticipates a small hiring increase in the fourth quarter as companies are forced to bring on more workers because of rising demand. He said the job market probably will not register significant improvement until the second quarter of 2004.

"Certainly by the spring we think it will improve enough where it's going to be easier for the job seeker," Tirinzonie said.

Companies continued to lay off workers even after the U.S. economy officially pulled out of recession in November 2001. The nation's unemployment rate stood at 6.1 percent in August.

The National Association for Business Economics released a report yesterday predicting the U.S. economy will start to rebound as businesses begin to hire back workers in the final quarter of the year.

According to Manpower's survey, employers in the South reported the most optimistic job prospects for the fourth quarter compared with those elsewhere.

Manufacturers continue to struggle with hiring, while the finance, insurance and real estate sector is particularly upbeat about jobs, the survey found.

Stan Grebe, president of the Denver executive search firm Career Forum Inc., said more companies already are calling him looking to boost their sales and management staffs.

"That tells me that companies are optimistic that there's some revenue out there that their sales and management staff can gain," Grebe said.


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