In the coming months, area employers are expecting to hire new workers at a slow pace - if at all, according to a quarterly survey by Manpower Inc.
Seventeen percent of Augusta companies questioned by Manpower, the nation's largest staffing company, reported that they intend to hire during the April-June period. An additional 3 percent said they expected layoffs, according to the Employment Outlook Survey.
Across the state line in Aiken, employers exhibited even more caution. Only 3 percent said they planned on adding workers, while 97 percent said they would stay with their current staffing levels.
Nationally, the 16,000 firms that Manpower surveyed said they expected slightly more - but still sluggish job growth - than on the local level, with 22 percent of employers intending to hire.
"I think everybody's going to be a little more conservative because of the uncertainty of not knowing what's going to happen with a possible war (with Iraq)," said Debbie Elder, Manpower's Augusta-area manager. "We just don't know how difficult the times ahead are going to be."
Despite the uncertainty and increasing gas prices, some of the more promising sectors in the local job market included non-durable goods manufacturing and wholesale and retail trade in Augusta and construction in Aiken.
Three months ago, Aiken employers were more pessimistic than they are now. At the time, 13 percent were expecting layoffs during the first quarter of this year.
The phone did not remain silent at the South Carolina Employment Security Commission's Aiken area office, though.
"We're still getting lots of job (announcements) in," said the office's director, Charles Haneman, who added that the agency helped place 140 local workers in permanent jobs this month.
Mr. Haneman said he has not heard of any major manufacturing layoffs ahead, which might help the Aiken area avoid some of the hits other counties in the region have felt from the loss of plant jobs.
"I would say we're holding jobs," he said. "I don't think we have any significant job growth, but we do have a lot of employers out there that are hiring."
Results of the employment outlook survey for April-June:
CITY/INCREASE/DECREASE/NO CHANGE/DON'T KNOW
Augusta/17 percent/3 percent/80 percent/0
Atlanta/18 percent/10 percent/50 percent/22 percent
Macon/27 percent/0/50 percent/23 percent
Savannah/17 percent/0/66 percent/17 percent
Aiken/3 percent/0/97 percent/0
Columbia/13 percent/20 percent/67 percent/0
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227 or email@example.com.