HIRING intentions are expected to weaken in the fourth quarter of this year compared to Q4 2013, though the employment outlook remains positive, according to a survey.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Surveyby ManpowerGroup Singapore, a human resource consultancy, covered 663 employers.

It defines employment outlook as the percentage of employers anticipating total employment in their businesses to increase less the percentage of those expecting it to decrease.

On this metric, outlook for Singapore stands at +16 per cent. This is a four percentage-point decrease from the same period last year.

Said Linda Teo, country manager for ManpowerGroup Singapore: "Employers remain generally cautious in their hiring activities especially since the outlook for the eurozone remain mixed." This is despite improving prospects in the United States and China, she noted.

Across the board, employment outlook is positive. However, five of the seven industry sectors considered by the survey are seeing more subdued outlook.

In particular, the wholesale and retail trade sector registered a decline of 12 percentage points to +2 per cent next quarter. Manufacturing also saw employment outlook fall by 10 percentage points, to +4 per cent. For the above two sectors, Q4 2014 is anticipated to be the worst quarter since Q2 2009, according to the survey.

Said Ms Teo: "The dip in demand for local exports coupled with the restructuring of the manufacturing industry has affected the employment outlook in the manufacturing sector."

Both sectors were also affected by the manpower crunch, given their traditional dependence on foreign labour, she added.

Meanwhile, the services sector and transportation and utilities sector both experienced upticks in employment outlook. At +25 and +17 per cent, these sectors saw improvements of 10 and six percentage points, respectively.

Overall, the finance, insurance and real estate sector has the brightest employment outlook at +31 per cent, although that is a three percentage-point decline from a year ago.

This is followed by the services and the public administration & education sectors, at +25 and +22 per cent respectively.