Hiring expectations among Hong Kong employers have dropped for the first time after two solid years of strong growth, a recruitment consulting company said on Thursday.
The company, Hudson, reported a reversal of the trend that set in during the second quarter of 2009, after completing a survey of nearly 600 executives in June.
The survey found 61 percent of executives plan to increase hiring in the third quarter of this year.
The figure represents a 8 percent drop from the previous quarter.
There is also a small year-to-year decline from the 65 percent recorded in the third quarter of last year.
Only 1 percent of employers expect to reduce staff.
The dip was more significantly observed in banking and the financial services industry, where hiring expectations soared to 77 percent a year ago, then fell to 62 percent during the recent survey.
Expectations turned decidedly more somber in the IT sector where the companies expecting to hire crashed from 79 percent a year ago to 52 percent in the current survey.
Executive General Manager James Carass of the recruitment company explained that many financial institutions have recruited aggressively in response to a strong rebound from the economic downturn. Most have now completed much of their post-downturn hiring.
But, he said, many institutions are still emerging and are hiring actively in a number of areas, including product sales for corporate banking, IPOs, and private banking. Most of the key hires are in replacement roles.
He also observed that some consolidation in the large IT vendor space has caused hiring managers to take a more cautious approach.
The third quarter is the first quarter in which hiring expectations in the city have fallen since rebounding from the global financial crisis.
Carass said he believes the "slight dip" is more of a leveling off that had been anticipated after a long period of strong growth.
The overall number of hiring prospect has been climbing rapidly from 14 percent in the second quarter of 2009 to 69 percent in the second quarter of this year.
The hiring expectations in the city remain at "a very healthy level", Carass said.
However, he added: "The real problem we have now is - are we looking at a trend or but a dip?"
"There is definitely some amount of caution in the marketplace," he said.
He said he has seen more caution among recruiters for banks and financial services, as the current global economy is "not up to expectations".
But he said the effect of worries in the US and Europe have yet to affect Asia.
The outlook will be clearer in the fourth quarter, he added.
Looking ahead to the last quarter, he said hiring expectations are not likely to reach the levels established in the first half of year.
The 69 percent head count growth expectation in the second quarter of this year is quite likely to be the peak of the year, he said.
"I wont' be surprised if the number drops again slightly in the next quarter," he added.