By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, March 11 (Reuters) - Canadian employers are looking to hire at a slightly slower pace in the second quarter than in both the first quarter and the same period a year earlier, the weakest outlook in four years, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
The ManpowerGroup Inc report, which measures the difference between employers foreseeing more hiring and those planning cuts, said the net employment outlook, adjusted for seasonal variations, was nine percent, a two percentage point slide compared to the last quarter and a three percentage point slide from the same period in 2013.
"From the data, the labor market has really stalled since I would say about August, last year. This quarter, upcoming quarter, really represents and supports that," said Byrne Luft, vice president of operations for Manpower Canada.
"We're seeing some weakness in our forecast. It is bending down a little bit, but nothing to be alarmed by," he said.
ManpowerGroup, one of the world's largest staffing companies, found in its quarterly national survey of more than 1,900 employers that 78 percent of employers expected their staffing levels to remain unchanged and two percent are uncertain about their hiring plans.
The results, the weakest since the second quarter of 2010, follow Friday's government data which showed the Canadian economy unexpectedly shed 7,000 jobs in February, sharply off the 15,000 new jobs analysts had forecast.
The average monthly job gain over the past six months, which is seen as a more reliable gauge of the trend, measured 4,200 in the six months to February compared to the 15,300 in the six months to January.
Construction employers were expecting the most robust hiring climate, even though hiring intentions were softer than the previous quarter and a year ago, according to Manpower.
Housing data last week and this week showed building permits for January and housing starts for February both exceeded forecasts.
Manufacturing appeared to be among the weakest of the 10 industries surveyed.
Manufacturers of non-durable goods were expecting few job opportunities, with a seasonally adjusted net employment outlook of zero. Durable goods producers saw one of the biggest declines in hiring expectations, with an adjusted outlook of 9 percent, down seven percentage points from the previous quarter, but up one percent from a year ago.
Regionally, Western Canada remained the most optimistic about hiring in the second quarter, while Quebec employers still expected the most limited opportunities for job hunters.
A mismatch in skills and jobs remains an ongoing challenge, Luft said, with many vacancies in jobs requiring specific qualifications and a pool of unemployed workers unable to fill those openings.