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Where The Jobs Will (And Won’t) Be This Spring

If you hope to land a job in the next three months, where in the country will you find the most vibrant employment scene? According to the just-released Employment Outlook Survey from Milwaukee-based staffing giant ManpowerGroup, the No. 1 spot is Provo, UT, which includes the nearby city of Orem.

Each quarter, Manpower MAN -1.17% surveys employers about whether they plan to add or cut jobs, keep employment levels the same, or haven’t yet decided. In the Provo area, a net 29% of companies plan to hire new staff in the second quarter of 2014. That compares with a net 13% of U.S. employers who expect to add to their workforces next quarter.

To gauge companies’ hiring plans, Manpower surveyed more than 18,000 employers across the country, gathering data in the top 100 metro areas. It used a research firm that quizzed hiring managers and human resource professionals by phone and email over the first two weeks of January. Manpower asked one multiple-choice question about companies’ plans for the second quarter of 2014: How do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the next three months to the end of June 2014, as compared to the current quarter? Companies could choose four answers: Increase staff. Reduce staff. Keep staff levels the same. Unsure. Then Manpower crunched the numbers and came up with a “net employment outlook.” The survey is a rough measure, since it doesn’t count the number of jobs employers plan to add or subtract, but simply asks whether they plan to hire or fire.

The good news is that the survey shows a recovering job market. “This is the best news we’ve seen in a long time,” says Tom Becker, Manpower’s vice president of recruiting for North America. The 13% net outlook is two points higher than it was a year ago. Though the net number hasn’t risen since last quarter, the percentage of employers who said they wanted to boost their staffs climbed by 2%.  The number who plan to cut their staff is a low 4%. (The percentage of employers who were undecided was a bit higher than last quarter, at 4%, which kept the overall outlook from improving.)

“Although we expect measured, stable growth in new hiring for the coming quarter, the good news is that employers anticipate the lowest rate of workforce reductions in nearly four decades,” said ManpowerGroup President Jonas Prising in a statement. “With 92% of U.S. employers planning to keep their staff levels steady, there is a sense of optimism that demand for goods and services is getting more predictable, allowing employers to feel more comfortable about business growth.”

Five cities tie for second place, with a 22% hiring outlook: Charleston, SC, Grand Rapids, Houston, Milwaukee and San Jose. While San Jose’s boom comes as no surprise, given that the metropolitan area encompasses Palo Alto, Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale, home to tech giants Google GOOG +0.27%Facebook, eBay, Apple and Yahoo, in addition to Stanford and both Lawrence Livermore and Sandia Labs, the boom in the other cities is not as well known. Example: Charleston. The area boasts low corporate taxes and a bountiful labor force. Some of the companies that are hiring: Molina Healthcare, which does health services contract management, Boeing South Carolina, a huge aircraft assembly facility, Silicon Harbor Ventures, a venture capital firm, and American Tactical Imports, an importer of firearms, ammunition and tactical equipment, which opened a warehouse and distribution center there in October, adding 117 jobs.

At the other end of the list: Honolulu, with a net job outlook of 6%. According to Jennifer Hwang, Manpower’s director of U.S. sales and former head of the western division, there has been a slowdown in Hawaiian tourism growth after several years of gains. In 2012 tourism jumped by 9.7%, then slowed last year to 2.5% and University of Hawaii economist are predicting just a 0.7% increase this year. Still, what’s striking about the cities at the bottom of Manpower’s list, which include Buffalo, NY; Palma Bay, FL and Philadelphia, is that none of the cities have a negative outlook, in contrast to last quarter when Buffalo had a -3% hiring outlook. Along with tourism to Niagara Falls, Buffalo has seen growth in green and high tech manufacturing and also in health care and education. M&T Bank, a regional financial chain, has added a new call center, which is hiring.

What should job-seekers expect for the future? Hwang predicts that demand will remain strong for IT positions, for call center work and for jobs in the light industrial sector. “Overall the picture is very positive,” she says. “I’d say there is cautious optimism in employment.”


Forbes Staff

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