Building sector sets pace as firms rehire

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 March, 2010, 12:00am

Companies are continuing to gradually rebuild their staff as business optimism grows, with the construction sector the most upbeat, according to a survey by human resources firm Manpower.

Reflecting government efforts to step up major infrastructure projects to help spur economic growth, optimism among employers in the hard-hit construction sector reached a record high for the second quarter of this year.

The survey saw a net employment outlook of 31 per cent, up 11 percentage points on the quarter and a 39-point rise on the year, as companies grow more confident that they will need to increase their workforces.

The hiring outlook is also promising for finance, insurance, real estate, manufacturing, services, transport and wholesale and retail companies.

Net employment outlook is calculated by subtracting the percentage of employers who expect to cut their workforce from the percentage of employers anticipating an increase in hiring activity.

Overall, Manpower found 17 per cent of the 817 firms surveyed expected to hire more staff in the quarter, against 2 per cent looking to cut staff. This resulted in a net employment outlook of 15 per cent, compared with 13 per cent in the first quarter. Year on year, it is a jump of 18 percentage points.

'A sustained and solid recovery will hinge on a fundamental improvement from a global perspective, and the local labour market outlook is still subject to uncertainties,' Lancy Chui, Manpower's general manager, said. 'As hiring confidence in the long term would still hinge on the external business conditions, employers remain cautious when it comes to increasing permanent positions.'

Wages are one of the single biggest overheads for companies in Hong Kong, which is still looking to the United States and European Union for signs that consumers are relaxing their spending.