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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian employers have a brighter outlook for adding jobs in the new year, with transportation and public utility companies the most bullish, but a cautious mood on the economy still prevails, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
In a quarterly survey of more than 1,900 Canadian employers by staffing firm Manpower Inc, a net 13 percent expected to add new jobs in the first quarter of 2013.
The seasonally adjusted figure is up from 11 percent in the previous quarter, but marginally less than 14 percent a year ago.
"The mood out there is they're cautious. They're not necessarily optimistic," said Byrne Luft, a vice president with Manpower Canada, a unit of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based staff provider.
The survey measures the difference between employers who say they will add jobs and those planning to cut positions.
Seven percent of firms expected to trim jobs next quarter, while 78 percent planned to keep staffing levels unchanged, with 2 percent of companies unsure of their hiring plans.
Manpower's survey follows Canada's report on Friday that the country created 59,300 net new jobs in November - far above expectations and considered a surprising comeback during a period of sluggish economic growth.
The Manpower survey showed a significant turn in hiring intentions from the fourth quarter, when the construction and education sectors were among the only industries to show a net increase in hiring plans.
"There are a lot of vacancies today in Canada - over 300,000. It just goes to show you the gap we're seeing in Canada, as far as the skills we have available or the jobs that are open, that gap is widening and it's problematic," said Luft.
"We're really starting to see companies go abroad to hire outside of Canada to fill those vacancies with what they call 'economic immigrants.'"
Transportation and public utility companies are the most bullish about the new year, with employers reporting a net employment outlook of 21 percent, up from 16 percent the previous quarter and 11 percent a year ago. Luft noted hiring in the utilities sector generally spikes in the first quarter because of the weather.
The resource sector was the only industry where there was a marked decline in companies planning to hire. Luft attributed much of the change to falling energy prices. Only 8 percent of firms were planning to add jobs, down from 17 percent a quarter earlier and 18 percent a year ago.
U.S. light crude oil futures are off more than 13 percent so far this year and down more than 6 percent this quarter.
More companies in services, construction, education, finance, insurance and real estate also expect to hire next quarter compared with the last quarter as well as a year ago.
"Finance and insurance in Canada is very strong. ... Our clients are constantly hiring in that space. A lot of it, too, is that they have positions they can't fill," said Luft.
Manufacturing companies, wholesale and retail trade firms and the public administration sector were steady in their hiring expectations from a quarter earlier, but plan to add fewer workers than a year ago.
In particular, 6 percent of manufacturers of non-durable goods plan to add new jobs next quarter, up from 5 percent last quarter, but down from 13 percent a year earlier.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Leslie Adler