The Best And Worst Cities For Jobs This Summer

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Employers in all 50 states expect the bleak employment picture to perk up during the three-month period ending in September. In fact, hiring managers in dozens of metropolitan areas anticipate considerable increases in hiring, while others present a darker forecast.

The employment services firm ManpowerGroup has surveyed more than 18,000 employers in 100 metropolitan areas to find out who's hiring, who's firing and who plans to maintain their current staff levels in the third quarter of 2011, July through September. Of the surveyed employers, 20% anticipate an increase in staffing levels in their second quarter hiring plans, while 8% expect a decrease in payrolls. The difference between those numbers gives you what ManpowerGroup calls a net employment outlook of 12%–or 8% when seasonally adjusted, which is still up from 6% for the same period last year. Sixty-nine percent of employers expect no change in their staffing, and the final 3% of employers are uncertain.

The survey reveals that the metropolitan area with the most optimistic forecast of all for hiring this summer is Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Michigan.

In Pictures: The Best Cities For Jobs This Summer

"This is the strongest outlook we've seen in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming market in almost three years," says Melanie Holmes, a vice president at ManpowerGroup. "The market results are considerably more optimistic than last quarter and one year ago. Among our clients, we've seen real strength among manufacturing employers as well as a demand for clerical and customer service support."

The Grand Rapids-Wyoming region enjoys a 24% net employment outlook, the percentage of employers that expect to add employees (30%) minus the percentage that expect to reduce their workforce (6%). Another 61% said they anticipate no change, and 3% didn't know.

"This does not come as a surprise," says Kevin Stotts, vice president of community programs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. "The employers I have spoke with, either large or small, have been very optimistic over the past several months. In fact, a persistent challenge with many employers in the area has been finding qualified talent to meet their needs. While specific sectors may not have rebounded as quickly, most are doing better than 2010, which was a strong year."

Some of the region's biggest employers include Spetrum Health, Amway, Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, Saint Mary's Health Care and Bissell.

"The area also has one of the largest concentrations of family owned businesses in the country with a strong emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship," Stotts adds.

So why is the region's hiring outlook so strong this summer?

"Employers across the board shed jobs during the recession and are now hiring again," Stotts says. "In general, West Michigan's economy has diversified over the past decade. As a result, it has outperformed other parts of Michigan and the nation in the recovery. I know of many companies that are having great years, particularly in information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing."

Employers in Asheville, San Antonio and Lancaster also anticipate a significant upswing in hiring for the next quarter.

Nearly a third of Asheville, N.C., employers reported positive forecasts, while 6% drew a bleaker picture. Sixty percent said they won't be changing their employment levels and the remaining 5% are unsure of their hiring plans. With a net employment outlook of 23%, the metro area with a workforce of over 205,000 employees is the second best place for finding a job this summer.

San Antonio employers are expressing similar sentiments. Twenty-eight percent of the southwestern metro area's hiring managers anticipate a bright third quarter. Meanwhile, 7% expect to decrease their payrolls, 61% anticipate no change and 4% are uncertain. This yields a net employment outlook of 21% and positions San Antonio as the fourth best place for finding a job this summer. Albany and Milwaukee enjoy the same rank.

Unfortunately not all cities are as confident about hiring this summer. The net employment outlook in Las Vegas and in Raleigh-Carey is a far weaker 2%–and those metropolitan areas aren't even the worst. The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area, which straddles the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, yields a net employment outlook of just 1% for the quarter.

The worst area of all for finding a job this spring: Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, Fla.

Only 9% of surveyed Sarasota metro area employers plan to hire between July and September, while 10% expect to reduce their staff levels. Seventy-eight percent expect to maintain their current workforce and 3% are unsure about their plans. This yields a net employment outlook of -1% for the sunny metropolis.

"When we look back at the last two-and-a-half years of our survey results for Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, there is a pattern of volatility," Holmes says. "In speaking with our local team, they tell me that the labor market is very tough, not just recently, but for the last three years."

The Manpower survey also reveals that employers in 11 of the 13 industry sectors reported a positive net outlook. Leisure & Hospitality (27%), Mining (25%) and Wholesale & Retail Trade (20%) are the most optimistic, overall.

"Although we continue to see hiring energy develop based on sustained year-over-year growth, we recognize that employers are still cautiously optimistic about increasing staffing levels," Holmes says. "This is a slow jobs recovery, and we anticipate it will continue at this pace for some time. Employers are simply not ready to take on the greater risk of more permanent employees until they see other signs of economic turnaround. And when employers are ready to hire, they will be very selective in hiring the job candidates with the right skills to move their businesses forward."

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