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An employee works at the drill testing centre at the Boart Longyear plant in Mississauga, on June 20, 2012.DEBORAH BAIC/The Globe and Mail

The fourth-quarter hiring outlook among Canadian employers has softened, with managers in Ontario the most cautious.

Hiring plans for the October-to-December period are weaker than for the prior quarter and more tepid than in the same period last year, Manpower's employment outlook survey, to be released Tuesday, shows.

The intentions come as job creation has sputtered over the past four months, held back by a shaky global economy. Canada's jobless rate, at 7.3 per cent, is unchanged from last year.

Still, regional differences abound. Employers in Western Canada are by far the most optimistic, with robust demand for workers in construction and natural resources. Plans are modest in Atlantic Canada, while employers in Ontario grew reticent, particularly in manufacturing and construction.

Employers in Edmonton have the most upbeat hiring plans, while those in Niagara Falls are most pessimistic.

Sixteen per cent of respondents plan to increase payrolls in the fourth quarter, while 7 per cent see cutbacks, the survey of about 1,900 Canadian employers shows. Three quarters expect to maintain current staffing levels while 2 per cent are unsure of their hiring intentions.

All told, the seasonally-adjusted net hiring outlook for Canada was 10 per cent, the weakest in almost two years.