More Economic Plus Signs

ManpowerGroup's $63.6 million in net earnings in the fourth quarter were a welcome sight after it lost $350.4 million a year earlier. Construction spending rose 4.3 percent between December 2010 and December 2011, according to AGC.

A strong fourth quarter 2011 capped a much better year for ManpowerGroup, which announced Feb. 1 that it earned $63.6 million in that quarter and $251.6 million for the full year. The comparable numbers a year earlier were a $350.4 million quarterly loss and a $263.6 million full-year loss.

At the same time, Associated General Contractors released a new analysis of federal employment data showing construction employment rose in 148 of 337 metropolitan areas between December 2010 and December 2011 as total construction spending rose 4.3 percent, driven largely by growing private-sector demand in the latter month.

ManpowerGroup's revenues rose by 17 percent in 2011 to $22 billion, the Milwaukee-based global power in recruiting, training, and leadership development announced. It said the 4Q 2011 results included a $20.5 million reorganization charge related to office consolidations and severance costs.

"We had a strong fourth quarter performance," said Chairman/CEO Jeffrey A. Joerres. "The team executed well both operationally and strategically. We were able to achieve a 29 percent increase in underlying operating profit for the fourth quarter and 61 percent for the year, while substantially moving forward our strategic drivers.

"We are cautiously optimistic about the first quarter, given the economic backdrop, but any sizable disruption in Europe would affect our performance," he added. "We are anticipating the first quarter of 2012 diluted earnings per share to be in the range of 30 cents to 38 cents with an unfavorable currency impact of 2 cents per share."

The AGC analysis said construction employment fell in 128 metro areas and stayed level in 61. "Many communities are benefitting from growing demand from the private sector for new construction activity," said Ken Simonson, AGC's chief economist. "Unfortunately, too many other areas are still coping with construction employment losses as the overall market remains relatively weak."

A big AGC priority, passage of a new federal funding bill for highways and infrastructure, may be accomplished soon. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's chairman, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., unveiled a $260 billion, five-year American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act on Jan. 31 and said the committee would begin work on it Feb. 2.

According to AGC, Lake County-Kenosha County, Ill.-Wis., added 3,900 jobs during the year, more than any other metro area, according to AGC. Other areas adding a large number of jobs included Edison-New Brunswick, N.J. (3,700; Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash. (3,600); Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky.-Ind. (3,100), and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (3,100). The largest job losses were in Philadelphia (-4,800), New York City (-4,600; metro Dallas (-4,500), and St. Louis (-4,300).

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