Local Job Market Looks Gloomy

December 14, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Job-hunting is going to be tough locally during the first quarter of 2005, according to the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey released today.

In fact, Manpower reports that among survey participants, the Grand Rapids area's employment outlook is one of the weakest in the nation.

According to Manpower's spokesman, David Clonan, the survey found that percent of the companies interviewed plan to hire more employees from January through March, while 17 percent expect to reduce their payrolls. He said the remaining 76 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels.

That prediction dovetails with the West Michigan Economic Overview for November that The Right Place Inc. published last week.

Citing Economy.com, the overview advised that Michigan continues to exhibit the weakest economy in the nation. "Employment has not yet leveled off, industrial production is falling, and impending production cuts by domestic automakers will continue the trend through the early months of 2005."

Manpower's Clonan said the survey's Grand Rapids data reflect that same picture. "Employers expect significantly less hiring activity than in the fourth quarter," he said. During the fourth quarter, he said 23 percent of the companies interviewed intended to increase headcount, and percent planned to decrease it.

"Employers are less optimistic about hiring than they were a year ago," he said, noting that at this point in 2003, 20 percent of companies surveyed thought employment increases were likely and 23 percent intended to cut back.

For the coming quarter, the survey indicated that job prospects appear best in the finance, insurance and real estate markets.

Employers in construction, durable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade and public administration plan to reduce staffing levels, while those in services voice mixed hiring intentions.

Clonan said that local hiring in non-durable goods manufacturing, transportation, public utilities and education is expected to remain unchanged.

The survey's national outlook for the first quarter of 2005 predicts a slight hiring boost.

Of  16,000 U.S. employers surveyed, 24 percent anticipate an increase in hiring for the first quarter, while 10 percent expect to decrease staff levels.

About 60 percent of employers surveyed foresee no change in job prospects, and 7 percent are unsure.

When seasonal variations are removed from the data, the outlook for the first three months of 2005 reveals that employer confidence is expected to inch upward from last quarter and improve greatly from a year ago.     

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