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Little new hiring expected, polls say

Associated Press / December 9, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Few employers plan to ramp up hiring early next year, two surveys show - evidence the economic recovery is not likely to create many jobs anytime soon.

Nearly 6.3 unemployed workers, on average, are vying for each opening, government figures released yesterday show. When the recession began, 1.7 jobless workers were competing for each opening.

More large companies will shrink their staffs than will hire in the next six months, according to a quarterly survey from the Business Roundtable.

Nineteen percent of the big-company chief executives surveyed expect to expand their workforces, while 31 percent predict a decrease in the next six months. That’s slightly better than the 13 percent who expected to increase hiring three months earlier. At that time, 40 percent forecast cuts.

More CEOs foresee higher sales and capital spending, compared with three months ago. But “it still will take some time for these gains to translate into more jobs,’’ said Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications and chairman of the Roundtable.

Separately, a survey of 28,000 employers by the staffing company Manpower Inc. found that hiring may improve in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the current quarter - but any gains will probably be slight.

Manpower said its hiring index rose to 6. It was the first positive reading since the first quarter of 2009. Still, that’s far below the 18 the index reached in the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession began.

Economists say employment at large companies is likely to remain flat through much of 2010. Many already have hit their hiring targets for what’s expected to be a weak and bumpy recovery.

“We’re in very much of a holding pattern for 2010,’’ said Brian Bethune, an economist at Lexington, Mass.-based IHS Global Insight.

The National Federation of Independent Business said yesterday that more small businesses plan to reduce employment than increase it. Seven percent of small companies expect to hire in the next three months, the group found; 17 percent expect to cut jobs.

Employers cut 11,000 jobs in November, the government said last week, down from 111,000 the previous month. And the US unemployment rate fell to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent.

Yet even as job cuts slow, there’s little evidence hiring is picking up. The Labor Department said employers posted 2.5 million jobs on Oct. 31, down slightly from 2.6 million in September - far below the peak of 4.8 million in June 2007.