HIRING sentiment among Singapore's employers has weakened from a quarter ago, says global employment services firm ManpowerGroup.

Singapore's net employment outlook - the percentage of employers planning to hire minus those intending to fire - fell to 17 per cent in Q4 2012 after seasonal adjustments. This was lower than the current quarter's 23 per cent and Q4 2011's 29 per cent.

Even though the net outlook was positive, some 69 per cent of the 650 employers polled intend to keep staffing levels in Q4 unchanged from Q3.

And though all seven industry sectors polled had a positive net hiring outlook, sentiment weakened quarter-on-quarter in five of the seven. In particular, the transportation and utilities sector registered the largest decline, followed by the public administration and education sector, even though the latter recorded the most optimistic net employment outlook of 29 per cent. The finance, insurance and real estate sector and the wholesale and retail trade sector were the only two whose hiring outlook brightened quarter-on-quarter.

Compared to a year ago, however, all sectors' hiring expectations worsened, with the sharpest decline of 25 percentage points in the services sector's outlook.

"With the current debt crisis in Europe and some measure of ongoing uncertainty in the US, employers do not foresee any quick fixes in the near future and are therefore exercising caution in hiring. However, with the growth in the Asia-Pacific region, there is an imminent need for a broad range of talent in many organisations in the region," said Linda Teo, country manager of Manpower Singapore.

Though hiring expectations for Q4 remained positive across the Asia-Pacific markets surveyed by ManpowerGroup, sentiment has weakened in most markets.

The net employment outlook worsened in seven of the eight markets surveyed, with employers in Taiwan, India and New Zealand reporting the strongest hiring plans, while Australian employers have the region's weakest job prospects.