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Survey reports employers predict a steady return to pre-pandemic hiring in most markets.

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Q4 2021 Net Employment Outlook (NEO)

More than 6,000 U.S. employers were asked about their hiring intentions for the fourth quarter of 2021.

Plan to Hire
Expect to Let Staff Go
Plan to Keep Work Levels Steady
Unsure About Hiring Plans
 

Industries with strongest jobs outlook

Below are the industries that plan to add the most jobs in the next three months. 

What is the outlook for your industry where you live?

Q4 2021 NEO: - % *

Hiring Outlooks Across the United States

51%

WEST

45%

MIDWEST

51%

NORTHEAST

48%

SOUTH

20 Years of Employment Data

 

United States Employment Outlook

Employers in 59 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed expect to add to payrolls during the October to December period, while 13 percent expect to trim payrolls and 24 percent anticipate no change. 

Once the data is adjusted to allow for seasonal variation, the Net Employment Outlook for the coming quarter stands at +48%. Hiring sentiment is the strongest since the survey began in 1982, improving by 23 percentage points when compared with the previous quarter and by 34 percentage points in comparison with last year at this time. 

Hiring prospects improve in all four U.S. regions when compared with the third quarter of 2021, most notably by 28 percentage points in the West. Northeast employers report an increase of 25 percentage points, while Outlooks are 22 and 21 percentage points stronger in the South and the Midwest, respectively. Employers in all four regions report the strongest hiring intentions since the survey began four decades ago, with the strongest labor markets anticipated in the Northeast and the West, with Outlooks of +51%. In the South the Outlook stands at +48%, and Midwest employers report an Outlook of +45%.  

When compared with the previous quarter, hiring intentions strengthen sharply in all four regions. In a comparison with the fourth quarter of 2020, employers in all four regions report a steep improvement in hiring sentiment. 

From this point forward, all data discussed in the commentary is seasonally adjusted, unless stated otherwise. 

Industry Comparison 

Employers in all 12 U.S. industry sectors expect to grow payrolls during the next three months: Information (+62%), Financial Activities (58%), Transportation & Utilities (+58%), Construction (+56%), Professional & Business Services (+54%), Wholesale & Retail Trade (+49%), Leisure & Hospitality (+45%), Durable Goods Manufacturing (+43%), Nondurable Goods Manufacturing (+43%), Government (+42%), Other Services (+42%), Education & Health Services (+38%).  

In each of the 12 national industry sectors, hiring sentiment is the strongest since the NAICS sector classification was adopted in 2009. In the Construction, Durable Goods Manufacturing, Nondurable Goods Manufacturing and Wholesale & Retail Trade industry sectors, the hiring pace is the strongest since these sectors were first analyzed 40 years ago. 

Hiring intentions improve sharply in seven of the 12 nationwide industry sectors when compared with the previous quarter: Construction, Financial Activities, Government, Information, Other Services, Professional & Business Services and Transportation & Utilities. 

In four U.S. industry sectors, employers report considerably stronger hiring plans when compared with the third quarter of 2021: Education & Health Services, Durable Goods Manufacturing, Nondurable Goods Manufacturing and Wholesale & Retail Trade. 

The Outlook for the Leisure & Hospitality sector nationally is slightly stronger in comparison with the prior quarter. 

Regional Comparisons 

Midwest 

In the Midwest, employers in 54 percent of businesses surveyed expect to add to payrolls during the October to December period. With 13 percent of employers expecting a decrease and 28% anticipating no change, the Net Employment Outlook is +41%. Once the data is adjusted for seasonal variation, hiring plans improve sharply in comparison with the previous quarter and this time one year ago, resulting in the strongest hiring sentiment since the survey began in 1982. 

Employers in five Midwest industry sectors report sharply stronger hiring intentions when compared with the prior quarter: Construction, Financial Activities, Information, Nondurable Goods Manufacturing and Professional & Business Services. 

In six of the Midwest industry sectors, hiring prospects are considerably stronger in comparison with the third quarter of 2021: Education & Health Services, Government, Leisure & Hospitality, Other Services, Transportation & Utilities and Wholesale & Retail Trade. 

Midwest employers in the Durable Goods Manufacturing sector report a slightly stronger hiring pace when compared with the previous quarter. 

Northeast 

More than three in five Northeast businesses surveyed (62 percent) expect workforce gains during the fourth quarter of 2021, while 12 percent expect to trim payrolls and 22 percent anticipate no change. The resulting 

Net Employment Outlook stands at +50%. Once the data is adjusted for seasonal variation, employers report sharply stronger hiring intentions in comparison with Quarter 3 2021 and the final quarter of 2020. Hiring prospects for the upcoming quarter are the strongest since the survey began four decades ago. 

Employers in eight of the 12 Northeast industry sectors report a steep improvement in hiring sentiment when compared with the previous quarter: Construction, Financial Activities, Government, Information, Other Services, Professional & Business Services, Transportation & Utilities and Wholesale & Retail Trade. 

Considerably stronger hiring plans are reported in two Northeast industry sectors in a comparison with the prior quarter: Leisure & Hospitality and Durable Goods Manufacturing. 

In the Northeast’s Education & Health Services sector, employers anticipate a moderately stronger labor market when compared with Quarter 3 2021. Hiring intentions are slightly stronger in the region’s Nondurable Goods Manufacturing sector, when compared with the previous quarter. 

South 

Employers in 59 percent of businesses surveyed in the South anticipate an increase in payrolls during the forthcoming quarter. With 13 percent of employers expecting a decrease and 24% anticipating no change, the Net Employment Outlook is +46%. Once the data is adjusted to allow for seasonal variation, hiring prospects improve sharply when compared with the previous quarter and the same period in 2020, resulting in the strongest forecast since the survey began in 1982. 

Hiring prospects are sharply stronger in eight of the South’s 12 industry sectors in a comparison with the third quarter of 2021: Construction, Financial Activities, Information, Durable Goods Manufacturing, Other Services, Professional & Business Services, Transportation & Utilities and Wholesale & Retail Trade. 

Considerably stronger labor markets are anticipated in three industry sectors in the South when compared with the previous quarter: Education & Health Services, Government and Nondurable Goods Manufacturing. 

In the South’s Leisure & Hospitality sector, employers report slightly weaker hiring sentiment in a comparison with the prior quarter. 

West 

In a majority (62 percent) of businesses surveyed in the West, employers anticipate payroll gains during 

the fourth quarter of 2021. With 13 percent of employers expecting a decrease in payrolls and 21 percent anticipating no change, the Net Employment Outlook stands at +49%. Once the data is adjusted to allow for seasonal variation, the Outlook is sharply stronger when compared with the previous quarter and the same period one year ago, resulting in the strongest hiring plans since the survey began 40 years ago. 

Employers in eight of the West’s 12 industry sectors expect a steep improvement in hiring activity when compared with the prior quarter: Construction, Financial Activities, Government, Information, Durable Goods Manufacturing, Nondurable Goods Manufacturing, Other Services and Transportation & Utilities. 

Considerably stronger hiring plans are reported in three industry sectors across the West in comparisonwith the third quarter of 2021: Education & Health Services, Professional & Business Services and Wholesale & Retail Trade. 

Leisure & Hospitality sector employers in the West expect the labor market to remain relatively stable quarter-over-quarter. 

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