Canadian employers anticipate a cautious hiring climate in the months ahead, with optimism the highest in the resource-rich Western provinces.
Manpower's net employment outlook, to be released Tuesday, shows a slight improvement for the first three months of 2012 compared with the current quarter.
Regional differences abound, with hiring intentions most positive in the West and least optimistic among Atlantic provinces. Regina and Edmonton are the two most upbeat cities, while Ontario's Northumberland County and Kingston have the weakest outlooks.
The survey of 1,900 Canadian employers comes amid a slowdown in the labour market, with hiring essentially stalled since the middle of this year.
"Although Western Canada anticipates the most favourable hiring climate, employers in all regions and sectors are telling us that they plan to hire at a more cautious pace from January to March compared with the previous quarter," said Byrne Luft, the agency's vice-president of operations.
"Despite slight improvement overall, many employers are evidently taking time to evaluate current market conditions."
Sixteen per cent of respondents plan to increase their payrolls in the first quarter of 2012, the survey found. Ten per cent see cutbacks, 71 per cent expect to maintain current staffing levels and 3 per cent are unsure of their hiring intentions.
Among industries, employer optimism is picking up among manufacturing of durable goods. It is most tepid in education.
Other economists, too, see uneven growth among provinces.
Saskatchewan and Alberta will lead Canada's economic growth next year amid robust activity in the natural resources sector, according to a Royal Bank of Canada outlook released Monday.
The RBC outlook also sees stronger activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, while New Brunswick is expected to tally the country's weakest growth.