The Colorado Springs area job outlook is less optimistic for the final quarter of 2013 than it was for the same period a year earlier, according to a quarterly survey by staffing giant ManpowerGroup.
The percentage of local employers that plan to hire in the fourth quarter exceeds those planning cuts by 12 points: 24 percent expect to hire more people and 12 percent anticipate work force reductions. The remaining 64 percent don't anticipate any staffing changes or were uncertain about their plans.
A year ago, the percentage of employers planning to add jobs exceeded those planning cuts by 14 percent.
Based on the survey results, the upcoming quarter will be the first in two years for employers to be less upbeat about the area's job market than they were in the same quarter a year earlier.
The outlook was brighter coming into the current quarter, when the percentage of employers expecting expansion exceeded those anticipating cutbacks by 22 points - which put Colorado Springs in a tie for the ninth best outlook among the 100 U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed by Manpower. The outlook for the fourth quarter ties for the nation's 39th best.
The weakening local outlook comes as the area's unemployment rate edged higher to 8.4 percent in June and July from 8.2 percent in March, April and May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The local economy has been slow to bounce back from the recession, recovering just over half of the 16,300 jobs lost during the downturn.
"Hiring decisions seem to be focused on the impact of health care reform. Employers are slowing hiring and cutting back on positions because of the uncertainty about how they will be affected by reform," said Tom Binnings, a senior partner in Summit Economics LLC, a local economic research and consulting firm.
The Manpower survey found good job prospects in construction, manufacturing, retailing, information technology, tourism and professional and business services, while employers in the education and health services sector were expecting cutbacks. Those in the transportation, finance and government sectors expected few changes in staffing levels.
The local outlook is still more upbeat than that for the Denver area and the rest of the state. In Denver, 15 percent of employers expect to add more staff, while 7 percent anticipate reducing employment levels, a less optimistic outlook than the one for previous quarter or for a year earlier. Statewide, 20 percent of employers surveyed plan more hiring and 10 percent expect cutbacks, down from the previous quarter and a year ago.
Nationwide, 18 percent of the 18,000 employers surveyed expect to increase staff, while 8 percent are planning work force reductions. After seasonal adjustments, the nation's overall employment outlook was up 1 percentage point from the previous quarter and 2 percentage points from the same quarter a year ago.
The national outlook was the strongest for the fourth quarter since 2007.
"We've seen consistent, yet measured, momentum in employers' hiring plans in a steadily improving market," said Jonas Prising, ManpowerGroup's president. "Employers have reached a level of confidence in navigating unstable conditions, and the strength of the (fourth quarter) survey data suggests a stronger close to 2013."
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