Third-quarter hiring outlook hits 10-year low, but there are a few optimistic signs: ManpowerGroup survey


Covid-19 took a bite out of US hiring plans, according to ManpowerGroup Inc.’s (NYSE: MAN) “Employment Outlook Survey” report released today. But there were some optimistic signs.

“The past weeks and months have seen the labor market transform overnight, with many industries halting hiring instantly, while others, including healthcare, ecommerce and logistics, saw immediate growth,” said Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America.

The survey included 7,700 employers in the US and took place in April and May. It asked, “how do you anticipate total employment at your location to change in the three months to the end of September 2020 compared to the current quarter?”

ManpowerGroup’s survey found 11% of US employers planned to decrease hiring in the third quarter while 17% planned to increase hiring. A majority, 62%, reported “no change” and 10% didn’t know.

Those numbers combined resulted in a net employment outlook of 3% when adjusted for seasonality — the lowest reading since the last recession. In comparison, the seasonally adjusted outlook for ManpowerGroup’s last such survey before Covid-19 was 19%.

In today’s report, the industry with the highest seasonally adjusted net employment outlooking was “education and health services,” at 13%. The lowest readings, at -3% each, were in “information” and “other services.”

When will hiring return to pre-pandemic levels? ManpowerGroup reported 60% of firms said that would happen before the end of 2020 with many expecting a return before the end of summer. Employers in “education,” “construction” and “government” expect the shortest Covid-19 hiring impact while those in the “professional” sector — including law firms, accountants and consultants — are most uncertain.

“As states open up essential roles remain in demand, as well as tech skills including software and app developers, and even new roles like temperature checkers and contact tracers,” Frankiewicz said. “It is encouraging to see so many employers predict a return to pre-pandemic hiring though we must remember any signs of recovery are fragile.”

ManpowerGroup conducted the survey in the US and 42 other countries. Total number of employers surveyed was 34,000. Globally, it found that employers in 35 of the countries expect to reduce payrolls in the three months ended in September. Payroll gains are expected in seven and one country expects payrolls to be unchanged.

“The significant declines across many countries reflect the unprecedented speed and magnitude of shutdown, which resulted in an almost total activity freeze across many industries,” ManpowerGroup Chairman and CEO Jonas Prising said.

However, the crisis may accelerate the workplace transformation already taking place, Prising said.

“Employers will continue to require increasingly specific technical and soft skills, digitization will accelerate and individuals will demand a way of working that is closer to what they have wanted all along — more inclusive, more flexible and more wellbeing-oriented than we could ever have imagined,” he said.

In Canada, the seasonally adjusted net employment outlook was -10%, down from 9% in the previous survey. It included 1,053 employers.