Job prospects better but still bleak, survey says

Hiring in metro Atlanta during the first three months of next year will be anemic – and weaker than the national average, according to a quarterly survey by staffing company Manpower.

Just 7 percent of area companies responding said they plan to expand, while 9 percent said they will be cutting, according to company spokesperson Beth Herman.

Most companies said they plan to hold payrolls where they are.

That compares with 12 percent hiring and 12 percent trimming nationally, according to the survey.

And while the economy may be growing modestly, the job market is likely to parallel the weak recoveries of the past several recessions, said economist William Smith of the University of West Georgia. “It wouldn’t be surprising to see us continue without a lot of job growth.”

While the national jobless rate slipped to 10 percent last month, many economists cautioned that the improvement was misleading: the number of people getting jobs was fewer than the number who said they had given up looking.

Still, Manpower results for Atlanta showed a slight improvement from last quarter when 12 percent in the region said they planned to cut staff. Manpower says the best job prospects now seem to be in hospitality, as well as stalwarts like education, government and health services.

An estimated 276,592 people in the area were searching for a job, according to the state Labor Department. Sluggish hiring cannot shrink that pool quickly.

“We are just losing jobs less fast than we were before,” said Emily Sanders, chief executive of Sanders Financial Management in Norcross.  “We could see up to 11 percent unemployment before it starts to improve.”