Twenty-seven percent of the companies said they planned to add jobs in July through September, while 8 percent said they anticipated cutting staff, according to Manpower Inc.'s quarterly survey of 16,000 firms nationwide.
The rest of the companies said they either expected to maintain their staffing levels or were uncertain about hiring activities.
When seasonally adjusted, the findings reflect a 14 percent increase in hiring activity compared with the first two quarters of the year.
"The trend has definitely turned," said Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and chief executive of Glendale-based Manpower, the nation's largest staffing company.
The third quarter results are nearly identical to the findings from the same period last year but still are not back to normal employment levels, Joerres said.
"Last year we were on the way down. This year we're on the way up," he said. "There is still going to be pain associated with finding a job, but it's going to be less painful."
The manufacturing sector improved the most, with 27 percent of manufacturers expecting to increase hiring in the third quarter, the survey found.
"In the past five months, the slowdown in losses in jobs has been dramatic. It is bottoming out," said Dave Huether, chief economist of the National Association of Manufacturers. "A recovery is coming in the second half of the year, but it is going to be slow. It is going to be modest."
The nation's unemployment rate jumped to 6 percent in April - the highest in nearly eight years. Economists say companies are worried about the recovery's staying power and are reluctant to quickly rehire workers.
The U.S. Labor Department reported last week that new claims for unemployment benefits dropped by a seasonally adjusted 11,000 to 411,000 for the previous week.
Here's Manpower Inc.'s regional outlook:
The summer will bring a higher degree of hiring activity not evident since mid-2001. While not fully recovered, seven of 10 industries report significant progress. Particularly encouraging is the confidence portrayed in the manufacturing and the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, whose companies report the largest jump in projected employment growth from last quarter when seasonally adjusted. Of continuing concern is the education field, which records its first negative outlook in six years. The expectations of transportation and public utilities firms show a pattern of gradual declines unbroken for the last year.
Summer will bring an increased demand for workers, although the degree of job growth is tempered by the recession's lingering effects. Construction and wholesale and retail trades hold the top positions. When seasonal effects are factored out, nondurable goods manufacturing comes to the top, with the durable goods section not far behind. As in all other regions, educators remain pessimistic, while transportation and public utilities firms appear to be increasing their hiring plans. The public administration sector is making steady progress in regaining lost ground.
The South barely surpasses other regions in job potential on a seasonally adjusted basis but has shown the most improvement from the outlook of three months ago. The nondurable goods manufacturing sector reports a substantial increase in hiring activity. Wholesale and retail trades foresee an increase in staffing following two mediocre quarters. Transportation and public utilities and services employees expect a healthy upturn in employment. The public administration sector reports a moderate level of anticipated job gains.
The West is experiencing somewhat of a renewal of confidence in its ability to generate jobs, but caution is still apparent. The overall outlook is marginally better than in some other regions. The durable goods manufacturing field, when seasonally adjusted, reflects a degree of optimism following negative reports for three of the last four quarters. The finance, insurance and real estate industry is predicting a healthy increase in employment potential this summer. Nondurable goods manufacturers continue to make headway in job formation. The public administration sector appears to be somewhat resistant to providing additional jobs.
By Melissa McCord