JOB seekers in Singapore could well bear the brunt of a weaker labour market as employers get the jitters over the uncertain economy, according to a survey to be released today.

Only 16 per cent of the employers polled by human resource consultancy ManpowerGroup expect staff strength to grow in the second quarter, down three percentage points from their earlier stated outlook for the first quarter.

It added that 2 per cent expect to cut staff strength in the second quarter, down from 3 per cent.

This puts the employment outlook at 14 per cent - 16 per cent expecting to add staff minus 2 per cent set to cut staff numbers - which is four percentage points weaker than the first quarter.

The survey looked at the hiring plans of the 700 employers across seven sectors.

Five out of the seven industry sectors assessed expect to do less hiring than in the first quarter.

All seven sectors are seeing a more subdued hiring climate than this time last year.

Manufacturing emerged as one of the hardest hit sectors, with employers expecting the slowest hiring pace of 7 per cent, down by eight percentage points from the preceding quarter.

ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo said the hiring pace in the manufacturing industry is likely to be "sluggish" from April to June.

"The repercussions of restructuring, labour shortage and the weak global economy are resonating in the industry," she noted.

"Furthermore, with falling oil prices, Singapore's key offshore and marine engineering clusters in particular are holding on to their purse strings."

The public administration and education sector also reported an eight percentage point decline in its employment outlook, followed by the services and transportation and utilities sectors, which registered a slide of five percentage points each.

The wholesale and retail trade sector logged a slide of four percentage points.

Employers in the finance, insurance and real estate sector, on the other hand, expect to turn up more activity in the labour market with an outlook of 20 per cent, up three percentage points quarter- on-quarter.

The mining and construction sector also registered optimistic hiring intentions with a five percentage point increase to an outlook of 15 per cent.

Ms Teo noted that the banking and finance sector has enjoyed reasonable growth over the past few months.

But she cautioned that it could nonetheless be affected by the global slowdown and subsequent trade volume decrease.

"Nervous economies and risk aversion could also be a dampener on employers' hiring sentiments."

But even as employers show a smaller appetite for hiring, Mr Michael Smith, country manager of recruitment firm Randstad Singapore, noted that it is "still very much an employees' market".

"With Singapore gearing up for regional integration by the end of the year, employers are still actively seeking the best talent to drive their businesses forward."

Professionals in the IT industry with digital, mobile and analytics skillsets, for instance, will continue to be sought after by businesses looking to streamline their processes, said Mr Toby Fowlston, managing director at Robert Walters Southeast Asia.