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Employers optimistic about increased hiring: Survey suggests jobless total will keep falling

THE jobless total is likely to continue falling through the next three months, the latest Manpower Survey of Employment Prospects suggests.

The survey, based on interviews with almost 2,000 companies, shows that 22 per cent of employers forecast job increases, compared with 13 per cent saying they will be shedding jobs - a positive balance of 9 per cent. No region is forecasting net job losses, although in East Anglia there is a zero balance. The most buoyant area is South Wales, with plus 20 per cent, followed by the South, Scotland and Yorkshire.

The results are not much better than those of a year ago, when there was a positive balance of 6 per cent. 'The trend needs to be sustained over a longer period before the figures can be taken to indicate that the recession is finally over,' Lilian Bennett of Manpower said. The survey's pattern has been remarkably similar to that exactly 10 years ago: the upturn shown in early 1983 turned out to be the beginning of the true recovery, although there was a small seasonal downturn in the second quarter.

Manufacturers are more optimistic about job prospects than service companies, while the public sector is still steeped in gloom. The average positive balance among manufacturers is 14 per cent, with clothing makers, electrical engineers and food and drink companies registering the largest balances.

Private builders are also much more cheerful, with 26 per cent saying they will be hiring people, compared with 8 per cent who believe they will shrink. This compares with a positive balance of 18 per cent, compared with 1 per cent a year ago and 7 per cent in the last quarter.

Services show a positive 8 per cent balance overall, though there is a much bigger gap between sectors. Retailers and insurance companies score plus 20 per cent, while bankers register a negative 11 per cent balance. Effects of rationalisation in the energy and water industries are expected to continue, leading to a balance of minus 13 per cent. In the public sector, the worst prospects are in local government, where the figure is minus 15 per cent.