It tends to happen every year.
During the cold, short days of winter, construction projects slow down and workers wait for spring to pick up hammers and paychecks.
"The more work you have, the more employees you need," said Allen Woods, co-owner and vice president of Gillam & Associates, the general contracting firm that is building the new Wal-Mart in North Augusta. "I think this January and February would look a little brighter than last year - at least, I hope so."
Construction is an area in which Aiken employers are expected to cut back on workers between January and March, according to Manpower Inc.'s latest employment survey, released Monday. The First Quarter Employment Outlook Survey showed an overall slow hiring season ahead for the Augusta-Aiken area, however.
In Augusta, 83 percent of surveyed employers reported that they have no plans to change staffing levels. Ten percent indicated they would hire more employees, and 7 percent said they would cut back.
During the first quarter of next year, 77 percent of Aiken businesses intend to keep the same number of workers; 10 percent will hire more; and 13 percent will reduce payrolls, according to the survey.
"It's a seasonal trend that occurs every year," said John Lawrence, the assistant director of work force information and analysis for the Georgia Department of Labor. "January is usually the lowest level of employment that you will see in any year, and each month after there are gains in employment up until July."
The outlook is not as bleak as it was last year, when 20 percent of Augusta employers in the survey said they planned cutbacks for the beginning of 2002.
Still, businesses will remain cautious with their equipment and payroll costs, said Rodger Tutterow, the director of Kennesaw State University's Econometrics Center near Atlanta.
"I think that now businesses are still very conservative," he said. "As we're moving into the new year, businesses will start gradually adding back jobs, but we're certainly not going to see the growth what we saw in the late 1990s."
Manpower, the nation's largest temporary staffing agency, compiles its quarterly survey through telephone interviews with nearly 16,000 employers in 470 U.S. markets.
Results of employment outlook survey for January-March period
CITY/INCREASE/DECREASE/NO CHANGE/DON'T KNOW
Augusta/10 percent/7 percent/83 percent/0
Atlanta/20 percent/10 percent/53 percent/17 percent
Macon/50 percent/3 percent/40 percent/7 percent
Savannah/23 percent/3 percent/71 percent/3 percent
Aiken/10 percent/13 percent/77 percent/0
Columbia/30 percent/10 percent/60 percent/0
Source: Manpower Inc.
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.