Employers seen holding line on hiring Majority of Baltimore firms plan no changes in fourth quarter

34% anticipate job growth

Survey suggests improved picture over last year

August 24, 1998|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Baltimore employers plan to hold the line on hiring in the fourth quarter, according to a generally upbeat outlook for the area's employment growth.

The survey's results, to be released today by Manpower Inc., a Milwaukee-based temporary-help business, also show job demand is on the rise compared with the fourth quarter of last year.

According to the survey, 51 percent of the companies polled plan no change in hiring; 34 percent anticipate job growth; and 4 percent said they expect to reduce their work force.

Eleven percent weren't sure what they will do.

Those figures are a vast improvement over the same period last year, when 74 percent of surveyed companies planned no change and only 11 percent expected to add workers.

Nationally, the survey of 474 cities indicated that in the coming fourth quarter, 60 percent of companies planned no change; 29 percent will increase their work force; and 7 percent will reduce their work force. The nationwide survey, which is broken down into regional areas, is based on telephone interviews with 16,000 public and private employers in 10 sectors of the economy.

"Things have looked well for this area since the first quarter of 1998," said Jacqueline Crymes, a Manpower spokeswoman. "Bit by bit, the numbers have edged upward. It's all very favorable."

Locally, employment potential appears greatest in construction, wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance and real estate. Industries where job reductions are most likely to occur include manufacturing, transportation and public utilities, the survey said.

"Only a small fraction of companies are adding jobs, but they add by the hundreds and that helps push the economy forward," said Anirban Basu, a senior economist at RESI, a research institute at Towson University. "Increasingly what we see is economic growth driven by 5 percent of companies."

The survey reflects the Baltimore area's growing economic strength, Basu said. RESI projects Maryland will add jobs at a 2.2 percent rate in 1999, with the Baltimore area posting between 1.5 percent and 2 percent of that total, he said.

Ioanna Morfessis, president and chief executive of the Greater Baltimore Alliance, a regional marketing and economic development group, said the figures are in line with GBA's informal polling of about 71 companies in July.

"For the most part, companies are very optimistic," she said. "There is concern about the effect the Asian and Russian economic systems will have on our economy.

"But there's still a tight labor market and companies are still challenged to find as many workers as they need, which means not many people are being laid off," she said.

The outlook beyond the fourth quarter is also promising, Morfessis said.

The GBA is currently in talks with 39 companies -- representing 6,800 jobs -- that are considering relocating or setting up shop in the Baltimore region.

Three of the 39 -- representing about 150 jobs -- are "close to closure," she said, meaning they are near the end of the typical 18-to-36-month period for a relocation project.

"We're talking real, live projects, not just something on a wish list," Morfessis said.

Pub Date: 8/24/98

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