The outlook for the U.S. job market has improved, with more employers planning to take on new staff in the first quarter of 2011 and fewer planning cuts, according to a survey by staffing agency Manpower (MAN).

U.S. hiring plans are improved from three months ago and one year ago, Manpower said in a statement. Still, most employers said they did not plan to take on additional staff.

"Seasonally adjusted data for the United States indicates the most optimistic first-quarter hiring sentiment in three years; yet 73 percent of employers indicate they will keep staff levels unchanged," said Manpower CEO Jeffrey A. Joerres. "Only time will tell if we've reached the inflection point in the U.S. labor market recovery."

U.S unemployment rose to 9.8% last month, from 9.6% in October. Employers in manufacturing shed workers as did state and local governments.

The underemployment rate, which measures workers in part-time jobs who would like a full-time post and people who have given up looking for a job, held at 17%.

The Manpower report was more optimistic about employment prospects in exporting countries including China and Germany.

Expectations were dimmest in European countries such as Ireland, Greece and Romania.

"The bright spot in Europe continues to be Germany, where the unemployment rate is at its lowest in 18 years," Joerres said.

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