Professional services employers, including legal employers, have become more reticent to hire permanent employees, according to Hudson's latest Employment Expectations report.
Conducted in December last year, the survey reflects the views of 4,338 employers across Australia and says that confidence in the professional services sector remains "solid" despite employer sentiment dropping by 6.1 percentage points, to 44.7 per cent over the last three months.
Just under half of the employers surveyed in the professional services sector (48.1 per cent) plan to increase permanent headcount over the next quarter.
The report showed that a robust resources sector is keeping employment expectations positive, despite growing global economic turmoil.
More than one third (35 per cent) of employers across Australia reported intentions to increase the number of permanent employees in the first quarter of 2012, while 54 per cent are planning to keep headcount steady. The number of employers planning to cut permanent staff in the first quarter of 2012 remained at 10.1 per cent.
"Despite the current international uncertainty, and changing conditions at home, employment expectations in Australia on the whole remain positive, particularly in the resources, transport and construction and engineering sectors," said Mark Leigh, the CFO of Hudson Asia Pacific.
The resources regions of Western Australia and Queensland continue to lead in terms of employer sentiment, with just under half (49.9 per cent) of employers in Western Australia planning to hire permanent employees before the end of March, and 43.5 per cent of employers in Queensland planning to boost permanent headcount over the same period.
"As recorded last quarter, the two-speed economy continues to drive significant differences in employer sentiment between the sectors, with those industries connected to resources remaining most upbeat," said Leigh. "Industries outside of resources are more closely reflecting the global economic uncertainty."