Financial services, insurance, and real estate businessesí hiring plans for the fourth quarter are the weakest they have been in 16 years, a survey by Manpower found.

The survey predicts that hiring will be "considerably lower" than even a year ago. Three out of four employers in what Manpower calls the financial sector (the finance, insurance, and real estate industries) expect their employment levels to be flat or decline next quarter.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey found that the sector's fourth-quarter seasonally adjusted net employment outlook-the percentage of companies planning to hire minus those expecting layoffs-was 5%, versus 15% a year earlier and 19% in the fourth quarter of 2006. The outlook is the most anemic since the second quarter of 1992.

Only 15% of the sector's employers planned to increase staffing, while 12% planned cuts, and 67% expected hiring levels to be flat in the fourth quarter; another 6% were unsure.

However, a report released Tuesday by Robert Half International said that chief financial officers at accounting and finance companies expect to increase hiring in the fourth quarter.

The report said executives anticipate a net hiring increase of 5% in the final months of this year-five points higher than the third-quarter one. Of the 1,400 CFOs surveyed, 10% said they plan to expand, and 5% anticipate personnel reductions.

The banking industry has already experienced major cuts this year. GMAC will cut 5,000 jobs. Citigroup is down 9,000, and Washington Mutual laid off 3,000.

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