Bosses say they are reluctant to take on extra staff in this half of the year, with finance and banking companies particularly cautions, according to a new survey.

It found that 35.9 per cent of employers expect to expand their workforce, compared with 44.4 per cent in a poll conducted in the first half of the year.

The fall was partly driven by the banking and finance industry, where only 27.6 per cent of firms plan to hire. This is a far cry from the 41.4 per cent in the first half and the 56.3 per cent in the second half of last year.

There is also uncertainty in the manufacturing and industrial sector, where the percentage of employers planning on hiring has dropped from 41.3 per cent at the start of the year to 33.6 per cent for the rest of this year.

"As has been well documented, China demand is easing, plus with uncertainty over the euro zone, it's not surprising to see a softening in demand in this climate," said Mr Emmanuel White, Singapore regional director of human resources firm Hudson, which conducted the poll of 473 employers in Singapore.

There is a brighter outlook evident in the information and communications technology (ICT) and healthcare and life sciences sectors. Around 60 per cent of bosses in the ICT industry said they are looking for new staff while only 4.7 per cent say they will be letting employees go. Hudson said that this is the strongest show of force in this sector since 2011.

The mood is similarly optimistic in the healthcare and life sciences sector, with 40 per cent of companies out to hire while only 5.7 per cent are aiming to retrench, a big fall from the 10.3 per cent at the beginning of the year. According to Hudson, this represents the sharpest net increase in hiring across all sectors. Mr White attributed this growth to the establishment of pharmaceutical companies' regional bases in Singapore, as well as an increase in consolidations and joint ventures.

On the whole, said Mr White, companies will continue to seek new hires for directors and specialists. He also said that sales roles will be in high demand "across the board" as industries attempt to drive growth through expansion.

Nonetheless, Mr White warned that companies are likely to streamline their hiring with an eye to cost efficiency, by basing strategic positions in Singapore while outsourcing middle-management operations roles regionally.