The outlook for Salt Lake City's job market during the second quarter of 2004 is "encouraging," according to the results of an employment survey released today, but employers' hiring intentions remain softer than what was projected for the same period one year ago.

Still, Utah's hiring expectations are in line with national projections, according to a survey released by Manpower Inc., a Wisconsin-based employment services company.

For the period of April until June 2004, 28 percent of Utah employers surveyed by Manpower Inc. said they plan to hire more workers, while 3 percent said they intend staff reductions. The rest expect to maintain their current staff levels.

"It's encouraging," said Robert Katz, Manpower's Utah spokesman. "These numbers are a lot stronger than our first quarter, but possibly softer than our forecast for the second quarter last year."

In Salt Lake City, 27 percent of employers said they plan to add more workers. Orem reported the strongest results, with 33 percent of employers intending to add to their staff roster. None of the Orem respondents said they plan to reduce their staff size. Ogden placed third among the three Utah metropolitan areas surveyed, with 23 percent of employers expecting to hire. Seven percent indicated they plan reductions.

Manpower predicted the best job prospects will be in construction, durable goods manufacturing, transportation and public utilities, and wholesale/retail trade services and public administration. Industries most likely to make cutbacks include finance, insurance and real estate.

For the first quarter of 2004, Manpower reported that 10 percent of Salt Lake employers predicted they'd see an increase in hiring activity, while 7 percent expected staff reductions. While the new projections are stronger than the first-quarter figures, they fall short of projections gathered at this time last year, Katz said.

For the second quarter of 2003, 30 percent of companies surveyed predicted staff increases, while 3 percent expected cutbacks, Katz said.

"There were some signs in the second quarter last year that we'd end the recession a little quicker than we did," he said. "Overall, this is pretty good news for the three major metropolitan areas. All are fairly consistent in predicting a net increase in hiring, with Utah County and the Orem area the strongest."

Utah's results typified Manpower's findings nationally, Katz said. Of the 16,000 employers surveyed nationwide, 28 percent said they plan to bring on more workers during the second quarter. Another 6 percent said they expect to trim their payrolls, while 62 percent foresee no staff number changes.

"It's encouraging, as we've had a kind of jobless recovery so far," Katz said. "It's encouraging to hear that there are some hiring intentions out there, which means that demand for services and production has gone up. People are hiring."

The number of companies expecting to hire is nearly twice that of a year ago and marks the third straight quarter of increased hiring projections.

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William Mezger, chief economist with the Virginia Employment Commission, told The Associated Press that companies cannot continue to rely on increased productivity to satisfy increased demand.

"As time goes on . . . employers eventually have got to do some hiring," he said.

According to the Manpower survey, companies in all regions of the country expect stronger job prospects in the second quarter. Employers in the South expect the most activity, while the Northeast expects the least.


Contributing: The Associated Press; E-mail: jnii@desnews.com

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