RALEIGH, N.C. — People looking for work or for a different job may have a bit harder time finding one when a new year gets underway in three weeks, two hiring surveys show.

Only 3 percent of companies in the Raleigh area expect to add workers in the first quarter of 2007, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey that was released Tuesday.

That’s far under the 13 percent of firms that said as 2006 they expected to hire workers.

Statewide, a net 8 percent of North Carolina firms are looking to add workers with 20 percent planning to hire and 12 percent looking to cut back.

Hiring prospects are better in Georgia, with a net 14 percent of companies planning to add headcount, and South Carolina, with a net 18 percent of firms looking to grow.

The Robert Half International Hiring Index reported similar numbers on Monday in its survey of 200 chief financial officers across the Triangle. A net 4 percent of CFOs said they planned to add workers with 6 percent anticipating the adding of headcount while 2 percent said reductions were expected.

Nationally, a net 3 percent of CFOs look to boost unemployment.

In Charlotte, the hiring market is largely unchanged from the fall quarter with a net 3 percent of CFOs looking to expand workforces. In a separate survey of chief information officers for Robert Half International, a net 6 percent are looking to add jobs.

However, Atlanta-based CFOs and CIOs are more bullish. A net 6 percent of CFOs and 9 percent of CIOs are looking to hire.

Manpower and Robert Half both specialize in workforce services.

No firms surveyed by Manpower in the Raleigh market planned to reduce payroll.

Manpower described the job market in the capital area as “modest.”

“In the Raleigh area, employers hiring plans are identical to those reported in the fourth quarter when 3 percent of the companies interviewed intended to increase headcount, and none planned to decrease it,” said Jeff Stocks, spokesperson for Manpower in Raleigh. “Employers are less optimistic about hiring than they were a year ago when 13 percent of companies surveyed thought job gains were likely and 3 percent intended to cut back.”

Of companies surveyed, 70 percent said they planned to keep headcount the same. Another 27 percent said they were not sure.

Job opportunities will be best in wholesale and retail trade, Manpower reported.

Unemployment rates are very low both locally and nationally, however, so competition remains strong for workers, the Robert Half survey noted.

“Continued hiring, driven by business expansion, rising workloads and ongoing compliance initiatives, has created a tight labor market for skilled accounting and finance professionals,” said Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Half International. “This is prompting increased competition for the best talent, especially for positions such as staff and senior accountant, internal auditor and financial analyst.”

Unemployment in Raleigh-Cary stood at 3.3 percent in October, unchanged from September, according to the latest figures from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. The Durham jobless rate also remain unchanged at 3.7 percent.

Statewide, 4.7 percent of the job force is unemployed with a record 4.266 million people working. That’s an increase of 107,435 over October of 2005.

In Georgia, the unemployment rate for October stood at 4.7 percent. South Carolina’s 6.6 jobless rate in October is one of the highest in the nation.

Nationally, Manpower reported that 23 percent of employers surveyed are looking to expand headcount as 2007 begins. However, 11 percent plan to cut workers. Two consecutive quarters of “more cautious” hiring plans in the survey led to Manpower describing the employment picture as “a subtle downward shift” from consistent hiring and expansion over the past two years.

The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent in November, up slightly from 4.4 percent in October.

Manpower surveyed more than 14,000 public and private companies in 460 markets.

Across North Carolina, Manpower reported job prospects in the new year are best in Greensboro where a net 26 percent of firms surveyed plan to hire workers. Hiring prospects are also strong in Rocky Mount (24 percent).

Unemployment in Greensboro stood at 4.6 percent in October. In Rocky Mount, 6.2 percent were without jobs.

However, in Fayetteville, a net 17 percent of firms plan to decrease headcount. That’s the highest total reported in the survey. Fayetteville’s jobless rate increased in October to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent the previous month.

In Georgia, hot job markets for net increases in hiring plans are Savannah (31 percent) and Athens (20 percent).

In South Carolina, the overall percentage of companies adding workers is high in Anderson (41 percent), Greenville (27 percent) and Spartanburg (14 percent).

For the complete Manpower report, see: www.manpower.com

For the Robert Half survey, see: www.roberthalf.com/pressroom