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Nearly two-thirds of American companies have no plans to hire or fire workers this spring, a sign that demand for new employees is beginning to level off, according to a survey of second-quarter hiring plans.

The survey, released Friday by temporary staffing agency Manpower Inc., marked the first evidence of a possible slowdown in new hiring by companies across the country.

"We have seen remarkably consistent demand for new workers for more than three years and very substantial hiring remains to be done," said Jeffrey Joerres, president and chief executive of Milwaukee-based Manpower. "But the slowdown now on the horizon is considerably greater than seasonal variation alone."

The report, based on a survey of 16,000 businesses nationwide, showed that 28 percent will need additional staff in the second quarter, while 8 percent plan cutbacks. Some 59 percent expected their work forces to be unchanged, and 4 percent were uncertain.

A year ago, 32 percent said they would hire staff, while 6 percent predicted cuts. Some 58 percent expected no change and 4 percent were uncertain.

Manpower has conducted quarterly employment surveys for 25 years. The margin of error in the telephone survey, which includes companies in 488 cities, is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

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