U.S. employers anticipate a modest increase in hiring plans for the first three months of 2010, according to a widely-watched employment outlook survey.

Polling more than 28,000 U.S. employers, Manpower, Inc. -- one of the largest U.S. employment services -- found 12 percent expect to add jobs during the first quarter of 2010, while 12 percent anticipate job cuts. 

Seasonally-adjusted, Manpower said the result would produce a six percent gain.  It called the expected increase over fourth quarter figures "unusual,"  and said it indicates higher confidence levels from employers.

"There is a lot of ground to make up in the labor market, but the overall increase in hiring intentions is positive," said Manpower's Mark Metzendorf.

Most Businesses Expect No Growth

The survey's most significant finding, according to Metzendorf,  was that a record number of employers (73 percent) expect no change in their hiring plans.  That suggests stability returning slowly to the job market.

"One quarter doesn't make a trend, but hiring intentions are clearly positive for the first quarter," said Metzendorf. 

The survey comes on the heels of a U.S. Department of Labor report released last Friday showing an unexpected decline in unemployment from 10.2 percent to 10.0 percent.

Global Survey Points to Good Job Recovery in Asia

Manpower's global business employment surveys are conducted in 26 countries. Recent results show businesses in the Asia-Pacific region expect hiring to return to pre-recession levels in early 2010, with  Indian employers reporting the strongest hiring plans. 

Employers in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania reported their weakest hiring plans to date, the survey showed.