Throughout 2011, employer hiring plans remained mostly flat during the last three quarters of 2011, and signs point to a slow first quarter of 2012, according to a recent quarterly survey by BNA, a legal, regulatory and business information provider.

"There is a great deal of uncertainty right now," says BNA Surveys Director Matthew Sottong. "Poor economic performance not only in the U.S. but also abroad gridlock on Capital Hill and the run-up to a presidential election where the outcome is very much in doubt … all of those factors lead to timidity on the part of business to expand and hire new people. Until some of those factors are resolved, we are very likely to continue to see flat or slowing job growth in all business sectors."

Of the respondents, only 21 percent expect to hire production and service staff in the first quarter of 2012, a drop from 26 percent since the fourth quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2011. Larger organizations of 1,000 employees are more are seeing bigger hiring projections declines than smaller organizations at 29 percent compared to 15 percent.

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