The job market in the Research Triangle will remain red hot in the New Year, according to the latest quarterly hiring survey from Manpower.

With 55 percent of firms in RTP and Durham county planning to add jobs and none looking to make cuts, the area is one of the nation’s best for people seeking work, according to Manpower’s Jeff Stocks. Manpower is a global staffing firm.

“We see strong demand for knowledge workers,” Stocks told WRAL.com and WRAL Local Tech Wire. “Companies are looking for people with information technology skill sets, clinical research, biotech and materials engineering, even though people are talking about the economy slowing down a bit.”

The outlook for jobs in Raleigh and Wake County is not nearly as strong, however. Only 10 percent of firms in Wake said they planned to add workers, while 13 percent are looking to reduce headcount.

Statewide, 7 percent of companies said they plan to hire more people.

Nationally, Manpower reported that 22 percent of the 14,000 employers surveyed plan to add jobs. Another 12 percent plan to make cuts.

The overall demand doesn’t have Stocks talking about a recession at all.

“I don’t see a negative downturn at this point,” he said. “I see more stabilization. Going into the first quarter, managers are making sure they don’t over-commit on hiring. That’s just smart management.”

What’s driving the demand for workers in the Triangle?

“Companies are doing a lot of research and development,” Stocks said. “They are developing new and advanced products.

“We see the IT technology growing in the financial services area, even with the subprime crisis,” he added. “There is so much IT infrastructure that has to support those financial services firms as well as large pharmaceutical and biotech firms.”

With unemployment already under 5 percent and in some areas under 4 percent, the state’s economy continues to perk along despite the housing financial crisis, Stocks noted.

“We’re very fortunate in this part of the country to still have job growth,” he explained. “We have had compounded job growth in Raleigh, and the survey shows hiring is slowing down slightly, but we need to put this in perspective.

“While 10 percent still plan to hire more and 13 percent expect to reduce payrolls, 77 percent plan to maintain their hiring levels. That means the market has stabilized.”

National Picture

Nationally, 12 percent of companies said they expect to reduce employment in the three-month period starting in January, while 22 percent said they’ll add jobs, according to Manpower.

The numbers show a slight drop from hiring intentions during the same quarter last year, when 23 percent of employers said they’d increase hiring and 11 percent expected a decrease. They also show more pessimism than last quarter, when 27 percent of employers planned to increase hiring and only 9 percent planned a decline.

But overall, they don’t represent big changes, said Melanie Holmes, vice president of world of work solutions for Manpower.

"Employers anticipate only marginal changes compared to the previous quarter so I don’t think we’re going to be seeing anything dramatic," she said.

The majority of employers in the latest report – 60 percent – expected no change in hiring between January and March, while 6 percent of companies were unsure of their plans.

The survey continues a 16-quarter stretch of fairly strong hiring intentions, in which more than 20 percent of companies surveyed said they planned to add to their staffs.

Still, the quarterly survey, conducted since 1962, shows employers in most of the 10 job categories it tracks expect to do less hiring than in the same quarter last year or more reduction, including manufacturing, education and services and public administration.

Construction companies expect one of the larger drops, with 23 percent of employers saying they expect to curtail hiring, compared with 16 percent in the same quarter last year. Seventeen percent of employers in this sector say they expect to increase hiring, down slightly from 18 percent last year.

Wholesale and retail saw a slight drop, with 21 percent of companies saying they planned to increase hiring, down from 23 percent last year. Eighteen percent plan a decrease, up from 17 percent last year.

In the finances and real estate sector, plans to increase hiring remained steady at 21 percent. But the number of companies in the sector that planned to hire less than last year grew from 7 percent to 9 percent.

Holmes said the survey doesn’t ask why employers choose to increase, decrease or maintain their staffing levels. Attention to the mortgage crisis or possibility of a recession could be reasons, but the survey can’t say for sure, she said.

"Nobody, of course, has a crystal ball and knows whether or not those things are going to happen, so it’s not real surprising that some employers are going to be cutting back," Holmes said.

Job growth by region was relatively stable, though the Midwest reported a drop from last quarter.

Nineteen percent of companies in the Midwest reported they would increase hiring in the first quarter, down from 26 percent during the previous one. Thirteen percent of companies were planning a decline, up from 9 percent last quarter.

The West continues to have the best outlook, with 29 percent of employers saying they planned to increase hiring, down from 33 percent last quarter. Eleven percent of employers said they planned to decrease hiring, up from 10 percent last quarter.

The South dipped slightly with 23 percent of employers expecting to increase hiring next quarter, down from 26 percent last quarter. Eleven percent expected to decrease hiring, up from 8 percent last quarter.

The Northeast also saw a dip, with 21 percent of companies saying they planned to increase staff, down from 25 percent last quarter. Thirteen percent of employers in that region said they planned a decrease, up from 10 percent last quarter.