Washington area employers continue to be bullish about the prospects for new employment, despite the recent collapse in stock prices, according to a survey released yesterday.
The survey by Manpower Inc., a Milwaukee-based temporary-help firm, found that 30 percent of the local employers polled plan employment increases in the first three months of next year, while only 8 percent anticipate decreases. Another 60 percent foresee no change, and 2 percent are uncertain, according to the survey.
The area outlook is more optimistic than Manpower's figures for the nation as a whole. Only 21 percent of 13,000 employers polled nationally said they foresee more hires in the first quarter of 1988, while 12 percent predict declining employment levels.
The local forecast also is more optimistic than a year ago, when 23 percent of the employers surveyed had hiring intentions, compared with 9 percent who expected cutbacks, according to Manpower.
"Once again, the employment outlook for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is brighter than any other large urban center in the United States," said Mitchell S. Fromstein, Manpower Inc.'s president.
The results of Manpower's survey appear to be in line with last week's Labor Department report that the nation's civilian unemployment rate decreased to 5.9 percent in November from October's 6 percent level -- a sign to economists that the nation's economy has continued to grow in the weeks after the Oct. 19 stock market plunge. In fact, some of the Manpower respondents were resurveyed a few weeks after the crash to see if their plans had changed, and 96 percent reaffirmed their initial predictions.
"The labor market, exhibiting a life and character of its own, at the moment is robust and optimistic despite the negative signals from the stock market," Manpower said in a statement.
Richard Groner, the top researcher at the District's Department of Employment Services, said the Manpower figures mirror the raw data assembled by his office, which he said show that the employment outlook continues to be good for the area.
According to the most recent report by the department, the unemployment rate in the District was 6.1 percent this past August, down from 7.6 percent the previous August. The suburban unemployment rate was 2.6 percent, compared with 2.7 percent in the August before.
"I don't expect anything in the numbers base we look at that would indicate a pessimistic forecast for the first part of next year," Groner said. "I expect it to be chugging along at the rate we're going now."
As with the D.C. government figures, the Manpower survey suggests that more employment opportunities continue to come from the suburbs. Of the District employers polled, 18 percent plan to increase their work forces, while 5 percent foresee decreases. However, companies in the suburban jurisdictions surveyed showed more optimism about employment prospects, particularly those in Gaithersburg, Camp Springs, Md., and Falls Church.
A spokeswoman for Manpower said that at least 60 firms were surveyed in the District.