RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Heads up, job seekers. A good number of companies are going to be hiring in the New Year, says the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Across much of North Carolina and the nation, the Manpower survey released Tuesday shows more employers are planning to increase hiring than are slashing more jobs.

With statewide unemployment at 7 percent and the jobless rate over 5 percent around the Triangle, any hiring is good news. The national jobless rolls swelled last week by the biggest numbers – 533,000 – in three decades. And as the economy continues to stumble, the percentage of firms planning to reduce payroll is only slightly less than those planning to add jobs.

Nonetheless, the is positive, says N.C. State University economics professor and author Mike Walden.

“It is reassuring and positive that the large majority of employers plan to hold employment steady, both nationally and in the Triangle, during the upcoming months,” Walden told The Skinny. “Although it is natural for us to focus on the negative aspects of a rising unemployment rate, it should be remembered that the majority (well over 90 percent) of people in the work force remain employed, and they will continue to remain employed in 2009.

“We are nowhere near 1930s-like Depression conditions, where one out of four workers were unemployed.”

In Raleigh-Cary, 13 percent of the firms surveyed plan to add jobs next quarter, and 11 percent plan cutbacks. The vast majority – 74 percent – anticipate no change. Manpower describes the hiring outlook as “moderate.” Best chances for hiring are in wholesale and retail trade, information, professional and business services, other services and government, Manpower found.

In the Durham metro area, the percentages are even more positive, with 19 percent of companies planning to hire and 11 percent looking to cut. Manpower sees the hiring trend as “steady.” Sectors looking to hire include non-durable goods manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and other services.

In Fayetteville, meanwhile, 16 percent of firms are looking to hire and 8 percent anticipating layoffs. Job demand will be strongest in construction, wholesale and retail trade, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality and other services, according to the survey.

Manpower, which recently expanded its survey to nearly 32,000 firms, said nationally that 16 percent of firms plan to add workers. Another 13 percent are expecting to make cuts. Still, the numbers left Manpower somewhat cautious.

“A significant percentage – 67 percent – of employers plan to hold staff levels steady for the first quarter of 2009,” Jeffrey Joerres, Manpower’s chairman, said in a statement. “This may suggest that a majority of employers are carefully monitoring the uncertain economic environment prior to making any additional employment decisions.”