Employers Report Cautiously Optimistic Hiring Plans

[Hong Kong - 14 Mar, 2013] Hong Kong employers remain cautious about hiring as 79% of the 805 employers surveyed intend to freeze headcount in the second quarter, according to an employment survey. Meanwhile, 14% of employers forecast an increase in headcount and only 5% predict a decrease.

The Employment Outlook Survey, conducted by ManpowerGroup, finds that the most optimistic hiring plans are reported in the Transportation & Utilities and the Services sectors.

The employment outlook of the Transportation & Utilities sector stands upbeat at +14% (subtracting those employers who plan to reduce staffing levels from those who plan to hire staff), up 10 percentage points from three months ago. It is reported that the opening of the Kai Tak cruise terminal in June has prompted more multinational cruise firms to expand their lines to Hong Kong, thus bringing a knock-on effect on hiring activities within logistics and transportation associated companies.

Employers in the Services sector are showing some resilience, too, and predict positive job growth with an Outlook of +14%. “Developments in the Qianhai experimental zone in Shenzhen are proceeding rapidly. The district is expected to be the region’s new financial hub and serve as the home of modern service industries to support the region’s growth. This is driving demand for a host of business services professionals with sophisticated expertise, such as accountancy, legal and taxation consultancy, etc.,” expressed Ms. Lancy Chui, Regional Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Greater China operations.

She also commented that, “recent statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, overnight visitor arrivals remain positive and will continue to help support the hiring outlooks of hotels and restaurants within the Services sector.”

Steady workforce gains are anticipated in the Wholesale & Retail Trade sector (+13%). The latest retail sales released remain robust due to the buoyant mainland tourists’ spending and local consumption demand and will continue to render support to the retail sector over the near term. This strong momentum has helped maintain hiring confidence.

Employers in the Mining & Construction sector are anticipating cautious optimism in adding staff to their workforce, with an Outlook of +12%. “Infrastructure projects commenced one after another in the past few years, along with the Government’s plan to increase housing supply, and construction sites nowadays are mushrooming, requiring a substantial supply of workers,” explained Ms. Chui.

Hiring pace of the Finance, Real Estate & Insurance sector is likely to slow in the quarter ahead; employers report an Outlook of +10%, which declines 5 percentage points quarter-on-quarter. Within other areas of the financial sector, there is still demand for talent in risk management and compliance areas due to the tightened banking regulations. However, global financial headwinds continue to prompt many investment banks and financial institutions to reduce their staffing levels or implement restructuring in order to lower costs, and this is evidently contributing to the sector’s slightly weaker Outlook.

Employers’ optimism in the Manufacturing sector (+9%) is gaining some traction (up 2 percentage points quarter-over-quarter). “Factory orders within the Pearl River Delta from Middle East and South American have picked up slightly from the doom and gloom last year, which in turn, has helped fuel a slightly modest improved Manufacturing Outlook,” Ms. Chui expressed.

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