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UK employment outlook 'turning a corner' according to Manpower


The UK’s employment outlook has ‘turned a corner’ and is heading in the right direction, according to Manpower, the recruitment firm.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey is based on responses from 2,100 UK employers. It asks whether employers intend to hire additional workers or reduce the size of their workforce in the coming economic quarter.

The national Seasonally Adjusted Net Employment Outlook of +2% indicates the jobs market is now back in positive territory, having flat lined in the first quarter of 2012 with an Outlook of 0%.

The latest figures also show employer confidence growing in London; the Net Employment Outlook of +7% is notably stronger than the average Outlook of 0% between 2009 and 2011.

This comes despite a wave of redundancies in the Financial sector which is centered in the capital. Positive sentiment around the Olympic Games appears to be the key factor finally propelling employer confidence in London to a high positive in the UK league of optimistic hiring regions.

Outside of London, the picture remains mixed across the UK. Net Employment Outlooks in the neighbouring regions of the South East and East of England have both dipped into negative territory for the first time in more than two years and, like the Outlook in Wales, sit at a reserved -1%. Meanwhile, employers in the North East report the least optimistic regional forecast, with an Outlook of -6%.

The most optimistic region is the East Midlands, with an Outlook of +10%, whereas the region showing the strongest improvement is the North West, where the Outlook has improved from a negative Outlook of -5% in Q1 to +6% this quarter.

Whilst there are reasons to be upbeat as we head into spring, Manpower's research does show that some dark clouds remain when it comes to the UK labour market. Employers in certain sectors are not hiring. Construction, traditionally considered a bellwether of economic activity, is a notably poor performer this time round with a weak Outlook of -9%.

Manpower UK MD, Mark Cahill said: "Although it's too early to say that a full-blown recovery is upon us, it does feel like we're turning a corner when it comes to the jobs market. Businesses that were battening down the hatches in the last quarter appear to be considering taking on staff. We've noticed much more flexibility among employers, particularly in the market for permanent hiring. The early signs of optimism are reinforced by other economic statistics of late, which point us away from a double dip recession in the direction of growth - albeit at a slow pace.

"The upswing in positive sentiment among employers in London is very encouraging. We are seeing thousands of positions become available thanks to the Olympic Games. Whilst it's undoubtedly true that many of these jobs will be temporary lasting only for the summer, we shouldn't underestimate the impact that an upturn in attitude can have on the psyche of the nation as a whole. This Olympic effect could well help drag us out of recession and into recovery.

"It's disappointing to see the Construction forecast so poor. The appearance of cranes in a city skyline is often cited as a symbol of economic recovery, and if this recovery is to gain real momentum we will need to see sectors such as construction begin to perk up later on in 2012."

Employers in other sectors are more upbeat, notably finance and business Services, which saw a collapse in sentiment in 12 months. Stuck at 0% in Q1 2012, sector employers now report a healthy Outlook of +5%. Still, employer hiring plans are a long way off the heady heights of +15% reported at this time last year.

Employers in the utilities sector are the most optimistic with an outlook of +14% and continue their track record of almost 10 years of positive hiring intentions.

Elsewhere, employers in the wholesale & retail, restaurants & hotels sector - which suffered a difficult year in 2011 - now report a small improvement when compared with Q1 2012, and the sector's Net Employment Outlook moves out of negative territory for only the second quarter in three years.