Jobs gloom as recession bites

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JOB PROSPECTS in Britain are the bleakest for six years and employer confidence has collapsed across the board, with engineering and other export-related industries the worst hit, according to the regular quarterly survey by Manpower.

A new forecast also predicts recession spreading from manufacturing to the service sector.

Days after the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated his upbeat forecast of 1 to 1.5 per cent growth this year, a report today from Oxford Economic Forecasting puts growth at 0.4 per cent in 1999. Manufacturing output is likely to fall by 1.4 per cent, mainly because of the impact of the strong pound, it says.

The Manpower survey of 2,268 employers is one clear signal that the economic slowdown is starting to hit the jobs market. "This does not bode well for the coming year," said Iain Herbertson, managing director. It reports that 19 per cent of businesses plan to increase employment while 11 per cent plan to cut jobs. The 8 per cent balance is the lowest second-quarter figure since 1993, when it was just below zero.

Manufacturing is weaker than service industries, with an overall balance of 6 per cent against 11 per cent in services. But both have weakened.

The deterioration is also evident nationwide. The old industrial areas such as South Wales and the West Midlands face the worst prospects.

Engineering and textiles look frail. The employment balance in general engineering is at its lowest since 1982 - during the UK's steepest post- war recession. In services, private health care and banking are predicting significant job cuts.