Twenty-four percent of the companies surveyed by Manpower Inc. expect to hire more people in the fourth quarter, and 9 percent plan to cut workers, according to Manpower's quarterly survey of 16,000 businesses.
The remainder said they either expect to maintain their staffing levels or were uncertain.
When seasonally adjusted, the fourth quarter's employment prospects remain about the same as in the third quarter, when 27 percent of the companies expected to add jobs and 8 percent planned cuts.
"For the balance of the year, job seekers are still going to be challenged," said Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and chief executive officer of Manpower.
"There's still cautiousness within the companies," he said. "Given the economy continues to improve, albeit slowly, you'll see a bit of an acceleration after the pause."
Manpower, the nation's largest staffing company, has conducted the survey for 26 years.
The national unemployment rate for July remained stuck at 5.9 percent with just 6,000 new jobs created.
Employment levels will hold steady nationwide except in the West, which expects a slight decrease in hiring from the third quarter largely because it is home to many struggling technology and telecommunications companies, Joerres said.
The finance, insurance and real estate sector is the only one surveyed that anticipates improved hiring over last quarter and a year ago, Manpower reported.
Manufacturers, hit hard by the recession, expect to maintain a consistent hiring level, which is a significant improvement over a year ago, Joerres said.
The Midwest leads in the recovery of manufacturing jobs while the South expects higher demand for workers in services, the survey found.
The Sept. 11 attacks and the accounting scandals have affected different sectors at different times and are keeping companies cautious, said Kris Thompson, president of the National Human Resources Association.
"There's a lot more uncertainty existing right now than at this time last year," he said. "Thank goodness the economy is holding on, because things could be a lot worse in light of what's happened."