Employment outlook puts local jobs on the line

Anton Ferreira

Anton Ferreira

Separate surveys released yesterday painted a gloomy picture for jobs as South Africa flirts with recession.

Statistics SA released figures for the third quarter that showed the number of jobs in the formal, non-farm sector inched up 0,4 percent - compared with the previous quarter. And Manpower, the multinational employment services company, issued a report showing that the outlook for hiring by local firms was the worst in two years.

The Manpower survey, which asked 756 companies what their hiring plans were for the first quarter of next year, produced an index of 13percent, four points lower than the previous quarter.

The figure is derived by subtracting the percentage of respondents who expect to cut jobs - from the percentage who expect to increase jobs.

Manpower's managing, director Jan Coetzee, said he was surprised that the figure was as high as it was, given expectations of widespread retrenchments.

"I had expected a bigger drop in the employment outlook myself," he told Sowetan.

"We went as far as questioning the survey, really having the guys scrutinise it to make sure."

Coetzee said the survey was completed early in November, and conditions had probably worsened since then. "With this whole global crisis etcetera, things change on a weekly basis."

He said companies were growing increasingly reluctant to hire permanent staff, preferring to take on temporary or contract workers wherever possible.

"Job seekers can expect to see longer hiring cycles as employers will be careful to make sure they are hiring the right person."

According to the Manpower survey, the sector likely to contract most in terms of hiring in the next quarter, compared with the last quarter of this year, is financial services - including insurance and real estate.

The Manpower survey, first conducted in the last quarter of 2006, hit a high of 34percent in the second quarter of 2007.

The Statistics SA figures showed that year-on-year, employment in the third quarter rose 1,8percent to 8,49 million jobs. The total wage bill for the third quarter - R253billion - jumped 15,1percent compared with the same quarter last year.