By Nick Zieminski
NEW YORK, June 12 (Reuters) - Hiring prospects have improved slightly in the United States and other major economies but companies are only adding workers when they have to, according to a survey by Manpower Group, the global employment services giant.
Manpower in a quarterly survey describes a vicious circle in which stronger consumer spending is being reined in by weak hiring, and vice versa. Spooked by Europe's ongoing debt crisis and a slowdown in China, hiring managers in large economies are reluctant to invest in staff until they see a rebound in demand for their goods and services.
"Companies are in tune with their demand and surroundings," Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said. "Hiring has been put into only-if-necessary mode. They can spring back, but there were too many times in the last 36 months when they thought it was safe to go in the water and only found out it wasn't."
Manpower's survey of 41 major economies found hiring intentions had strengthened in 17 countries and territories compared with the previous quarter, including in India, Japan and the United States.
Hiring intentions were unchanged in eight economies and weaker in 16, including in Brazil and Germany, the survey found.
The U.S. net employment outlook, which measures the difference between those adding jobs and those cutting them, rose to a seasonally adjusted plus-11, up from plus-10 in the previous quarter.
The measure, which correlates with government employment data, marked the third consecutive quarterly increase and suggests U.S. payrolls will grow at a slightly faster pace in the third quarter than in the second. Manpower says its index is a directional indicator rather than a predictor of the size of job gains.
Its poll of 18,000 U.S. hiring managers follows two months of disappointing U.S. jobs growth. The U.S. economy added just 69,000 jobs last month, less than half what was expected, and the unemployment rate ticked back up to 8.2 percent.
GERMANY 0, GRAVITY 1
Germany, whose economy has appeared relatively unscathed by Europe's debt problems, is likely looking at a period of weaker hiring. Job prospects in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, are down for the fourth quarter in a row to the lowest level in almost three years, partly reflecting weaker exports to China, a major market.
"You can't defy gravity forever," Joerres said. "As the rest of the world slows, they, too, will come with it."
Manpower cited drugmaker Bayer AG ; automaker Opel, a unit of General Motors, and the Siemens unit Osram among major German companies planning to trim their work forces.
Greece, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland were other European countries in which job prospects have weakened for the third quarter. In the UK, employer sentiment is "tepid" as slumps in construction and financial services helped push the economy back into recession, Manpower said.
India's hiring plans are the strongest globally for the third quarter in a row, amid robust growth in services and retail. Stronger job security is prompting more Indian nationals to return to India.
Japan's consumer and construction sectors have helped lift the hiring outlook in that country to its best level since 2008, spurred by the rebuilding effort after last year's destructive tsunami. China's jobs outlook was unchanged from the prior quarter.
In Latin America, employers are more cautious in Argentina and in Brazil, whose hiring outlook is the weakest since early 2010. Employers in Peru, Costa Rica and Guatemala are also a little less bullish, but their counterparts in Colombia and Panama are more willing to take on new workers.