One in five Los Angeles area employers plan to hire more workers during the first quarter, the best showing in several years, according to a survey released today from Manpower Inc.

The Milwaukee staffing giant’s quarterly survey of employers in Los Angeles and Orange counties found that 20 percent plan to increase staff, 6 percent plan to decrease staff and 69 percent plan to keep staffing levels constant.

This compares favorably with the national picture, where 17 percent of employers plan to add staff during the first quarter and 7 percent plan to decrease staff.

The local figures also are a significant improvement over both the fourth quarter and a year ago. Three months ago, Manpower reported that 15 percent of local employers planned to hire more workers while 9 percent planned to cut staff. The figures for a year ago were 14 percent and 8 percent respectively.

The percentage of firms that say they plan to hire more workers is at its highest level since before the recession.

“Employers’ hiring expectations for the first quarter of 2014 are more optimistic,” said Manpower spokeswoman Carol Schenk.

For the first quarter, job prospects appear best for durable goods manufacturing, financial services, professional and business services, education and health services and leisure/hospitality. Only retail employers plan to reduce staff, but that’s a seasonal effect of the post-holiday period.

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