Canadian employers expect to be hiring in  first quarter of 2014, with employers in the construction sector reporting the strongest job prospects, according to an employment outlook survey by international firm Manpower Group.

The survey of more than 1,900 employers across Canada showed 13 per cent planned to add jobs in the first quarter of 2014, compared with just 11 per cent in the final quarter of 2013.

About 78 per cent of employers expect to maintain current staffing levels while eight per cent are expecting to cut back.

In November, the Canadian economy added 22,000 jobs  and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.9 per cent, according to a report from Statistics Canada.

Those jobs numbers and the Manpower Outlook seem to bode well for 2013, when the Bank of Canada is projecting GDP growth of 2.3 per cent for the year.

There are several wild cards in the growth outlook, including the impact of rising interest rates, the overall health of the U.S. economy which still takes most of Canada's exports and the effect of high household debt on Canadian consumer spending.

Go west for jobs

The best job prospects are in Western Canada, with 17 per cent of employers reporting they were looking for new staff, according to the Manpower survey.  

Construction was the hottest sector, with 16 per cent of companies looking for new hires. Byrne Luft, vice president of operations for Manpower Canada said most of those new jobs are expected to be in Western Canada and Ontario.

There is a positive hiring climate in the wholesale and retail trade and manufacturing of durable goods, with 14 per cent of companies projecting new hires. That’s a considerable improvement on last year’s prospects in those sectors.

However, there are far fewer opportunities in mining, transportation and utilities, manufacturing of non-durables and the public sector.

Public sector employment dismal

There are major layoffs coming in food manufacturing – including Leamington, Ont.’s Heinz plant and Kellogg’s in London, Ont. and a report from BMO economist Benjamin Reitzes shows both provincial and federal governments are slashing jobs.

Reitzes said in a research report that public sector employment in November was down 5.3 per cent from a year earlier, an overall loss of 52,000 jobs.

“With the federal government and most provinces still looking to balance the books, don’t expect a comeback anytime soon,” he said.