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Where is the job market going? Forward, with some bumps

Workers construct a condo development in downtown Vancouver in this file photo.

Simon Hayter/simon hayter The Globe and Mail

Job seekers – and employers – trying to pinpoint trends in the labour market could be forgiven for feeling whiplash.

Hiring has been bumpy lately, with three months of job creation this year (including a near-record jump in May) and two months of losses. Smoothed-out averages show employers have been adding about 19,000 a month, which is consistent with modest economic growth.

A new outlook on hiring shows sentiment has weakened, with most sectors in Canada expecting to leave staffing levels unchanged through the summer.

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Manpower's quarterly employment outlook survey, to be released Tuesday, fell to its lowest level in three years amid dimmer prospects in manufacturing. A fifth, or 21 per cent, of employers plan to increase payrolls in the third quarter, while 6 per cent see cutbacks. Seven in ten, 71 per cent, expect to maintain current staffing levels while 2 per cent are unsure.

The outlook for the third quarter, at a seasonally adjusted 9 per cent, is the weakest since the second quarter of 2010. Levels are 3 percentage points lower than the same time last year.

"The trend is problematic," said Byrne Luft, vice president of operations at Manpower, whose survey is based on responses from 1,900 Canadian employers. The softer outlook reflects a mining sector that is trimming investments due to lower commodity prices, and factories that are pressured to contain costs, he said.

The strongest job prospects are in transportation and public utilities.

Among regions, hiring plans are most buoyant in the Western Canada from July to September and most cautious in Quebec.

The outlook for the construction sector is also expected to be relatively strong, particularly in the West, supported by government infrastructure spending. Employment in the construction industry has risen 5.8 per cent in the past year amid still-strong building activity, the biggest percentage gain by sector. Still, the pace of hiring there is expected to slow as the real-estate market cools.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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