Although employer confidence remains fragile, there are signs that employers are becoming more confident about longer-term hiring intentions, as revealed by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s latest JobsOutlook.

The monthly report found:

Employers confident about growing workforce in the long-term: Over the next 12 months, 42 per cent of employers are planning to grow their permanent staff while another 48 per cent say they intend to keep it at the same level as today. This amounts to a one point rise on the previous month. The overall confidence ‘Barometer’ rating is down slightly on last month, but the rate of decline has slowed, which also suggests that the overall picture is changing for the better.

Short-term hiring outlook less certain: Forty-nine per cent of employers plan to grow their workforce in the next three months marking a five point drop on last month’s report. Of the employers questioned, 41 per cent intend to keep their current headcount the same, confirming employer caution for the final months of the year.

Temps still in strong demand: The October JobsOutlook shows that 82% of employers are planning to either maintain or increase their use of temporary staff in both the short and longer term. Although this is slightly down on last month, the data confirms that the vast majority of businesses are not planning to reduce their use of agency staff despite the Agency Worker Regulations coming into force earlier this month.

Public sector cuts continue to bite: The impact of public sector cuts looms large. October has seen a rise in the number of public sector employers – up three per cent this month from 60 per cent to 63 per cent – saying that the impact on them would be either quite serious or very serious. There was also a rise – from 21 per cent to 22 per cent – in the numbers of private sector employers saying that public sector cuts would have a serious or very serious impact on their businesses.

Commenting on the latest data, Roger Tweedy, the REC’s Director of Research said:

“The underlying trend this month is one of improvement in employers’ optimism about their future hiring intentions. Though the overall scores have only fluctuated slightly over the past month, the last three months of data show that there are definite signs that confidence is returning.

“Employers will continue to err on the side of caution on how they shape their workforces in both the short and long-term. However, the ongoing feedback from recruitment professionals confirms that businesses in many sectors are still looking to attract workers with the right talent despite the difficult economic climate. This explains the slight upturn in hiring intentions and confirms that job opportunities are still out there.”