The Colorado Springs area job outlook for the first quarter of next year is the most pessimistic in two years, according to a quarterly survey by staffing giant ManpowerGroup.
The percentage of employers planning to hire in the January-to-March quarter exceeds those planning cuts by 8 percentage points: 16 percent expect to add staff, while 8 percent anticipate workforce reductions. The remaining 76 percent either don't plan staffing changes or weren't certain about their plans.
A year ago, the percentage of employers planning to hire additional staff exceeded those anticipating cuts by 9 percentage points; for the previous quarter, the difference was 12 percentage points.
The latest outlook is the weakest since the first quarter of 2012, when the percentage of employers who planned to add workers exceeded those expecting cuts by 7 percentage points. The hiring outlook typically is weakest during the first quarter, when many retailers cut staff hired for the holiday selling season.
Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, attributed the weak job outlook to uncertainty over automatic federal budget cuts - sequestration - and a shift in the local economy in recent years to lower-paying and lower-skilled jobs.
The weak outlook comes as the area's unemployment rate declined to a nearly five-year low of 8.1 percent in October, down from 9 percent a year earlier. But it remains one of the highest in the state and has been slower to recover than either the state or national job markets.
The survey found good job prospects in manufacturing, retailing, professional and business services, tourism and other services, while employers in the construction and financial services sectors plan staff reductions. Employers in the transportation, utilities, information technology, education, health services and government sectors expect few changes in staffing levels.
The local outlook is not nearly as optimistic as the one for the Denver area or the rest of the state. In Denver, 18 percent of employers plan to add more staff in the first quarter, while just 3 percent anticipate cutting jobs, the same percentage point difference as a year earlier and nearly double the difference from the previous quarter.
Statewide, 17 percent of employers expect to hire additional staff during the first quarter, while 5 percent anticipate work force reductions, up from the previous quarter but down from a year ago.
Denver's outlook was tied with six other cities as the 17th best among the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas, while the Colorado Springs outlook was tied with six other cities for 58th best among the 100 areas.
The Daytona, Fla., area had the most optimistic hiring outlook, while Buffalo, N.Y., had the most pessimistic.
Nationwide, 17 percent of the 18,000 employers surveyed plan to hire additional workers, while 7 percent expect staffing cuts, a difference of 10 percentage points. After seasonal adjustments, the nation's overall employment outlook was unchanged from the previous quarter and up 1 percentage point from a year earlier.
"Employers remain optimistic and continue to gradually improve their hiring projections despite the uneven economic recovery and other global and domestic influences," said Jonas Prising, president of ManpowerGroup. "However, for widespread employment growth to occur, we will need to see hiring intentions increase at a much faster pace."
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