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77% of state companies won’t hire for spring

Harsh winter mitigates Manpower poll outlook

Some will blame Old Man Winter for employers’ lack of confidence in the months ahead.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, released today, shows 15 percent of Hoosier employers intend to hire more workers from April to June. Five percent intend to reduce payrolls, while most companies – 77 percent – will stand pat.

An additional 3 percent are uncertain of their second-quarter hiring plans.

The survey was posed to 282 Indiana businesses and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 0.61 percentage point. Manpower spokesman Pat Hevrdejs points to a slightly rosier outlook weighed against the first quarter.

“The Quarter 2 survey results show more optimistic hiring plans compared to Quarter 1 when the net employment outlook was 6 percent,” he said.

IPFW economics professor David Dilts isn’t so sure.

“There isn’t a great deal of optimism in the business community, but neither is there a great deal of pessimism,” he said. “I know that sounds like a cop-out, but there’s just not a lot of evidence one way or the other.”

Of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed nationally by Manpower, 19 percent expect to add to their workforces, and 4 percent anticipate a decline in payrolls during the first part of the year.

Seventy-three percent of employers won’t make changes to staff levels, while the remaining 4 percent of the companies are undecided.

Dilts said this winter was brutal on business. His comments echo a report last week from the Federal Reserve that showed slumping retail sales, including auto purchases. Manufacturing also suffered with factories reporting power outages and delayed deliveries of supplies.

“It really did have an impact,” Dilts said, “and we haven’t seen a bounce-back yet.”

Eight of the Fed’s 12 regions did report improved economic activity during January and early February, according to the Beige Book survey released last week. But the improvement was described as “modest to moderate.”

New York and Philadelphia, two regions hit hard by winter storms and freezing cold, reported a dip in business attributed to the weather. The Beige Book is based on anecdotal reports from businesses and will be considered with other data when the Fed meets March 18-19.

Dilts said outlook polls should be scrutinized.

“There’s not a lot of evidence that companies are hiring people, and there’s not a lot of evidence they’re getting rid of people,” he said. “Expectations are a funny thing. People adjust their expectations based on the most recent thing that has benefited them or traumatized them.”

Right now, it’s the weather.

“This was one hell of a winter when you think about it,” Dilts said. “We did set records. But here’s the thing: The weather is going to get better. When it does, then we’ll have to take a look at this again.”

pwyche@jg.net

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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