Many local employers are on the fence when it comes to hiring, with about two-thirds responding to a Manpower survey saying they will maintain current staffing levels in the first quarter of 2012, the company announced Dec. 13.

Of those interviewed, 15 percent said they plan to increase their staffs, but that was down from the fourth-quarter report, when 16 percent said they were expanding their staffs. The number of local employers that responded to the survey was not disclosed.

A year ago, 18 percent of employers planned to increase staffing in the first quarter.

Fourteen percent said they planned to reduce their staffs in the first quarter, up from 12 percent in the fourth quarter of this year, the survey found. One year ago, only 7 percent said they were cutting workers in the first quarter.

Five percent said they weren’t certain of their hiring plans.

Phil Blair, co-owner of Manpower Temporary Services in San Diego, said regional hiring activity is expected to slow next quarter.

“Employers expect much weaker employment prospects compared with one year ago when the net employment outlook was 11 percent,” Blair said.

Net employment outlook takes the percentage of those employers planning to increase staffing and subtracts the percent planning to reduce staffing. In the first quarter of 2012, the net employment outlook is 1 percent versus 4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, and 11 percent in the first quarter of 2011, the Manpower survey stated.

Nationally, the survey found slightly better prospects. Fourteen percent of the 18,000 employers that responded said they plan to increase staffing, while 70 percent said they would maintain current levels, and 9 percent expect to cut. The remaining 7 percent are undecided.

— Mike Allen