Hiring will improve slightly nationwide this spring, but not enough to mark a recovery from recessionary levels, a new forecast finds.

Twenty-one percent of the firms interviewed said they planned to add jobs in April through June, while another 10 percent said they anticipated cutting staff during that time, according to Manpower Inc.'s quarterly survey of 16,000 American businesses.

The rest of the companies said they either expected to maintain their staffing levels or were uncertain about hiring activities in the second quarter.

When seasonally adjusted, the findings reflect a 1 percent increase in hiring activity during the first three months of the year. The survey found a flat hiring trend in the first quarter.

Still, the survey's second quarter findings are down from the same time last year, when 28 percent of the firms said they planned to hire more people and 8 percent intended to cut staff.

"Companies are going to be hesitating for some time yet, but the trend could turn into something more positive in the next two or three quarters," said Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and chief executive of Glendale-based Manpower, the nation's largest staffing company.

The increase, thought slight, was the survey's first in more than a year. Manpower expects the increase to continue in the next few quarters, which could signal a recovery, Joerres said.

"We've got a ways to climb back up before the individual feels like it's a good market," he said. "Companies are sensing they need more people, but it's not of a magnitude that many individuals are going to feel like they have an environment where they can find the positions and the companies they want to work for."

Manufacturing companies expect to show the greatest improvements in hiring activity among the 10 industry sectors surveyed, Manpower said.

Twenty percent of durable goods manufacturers said they expected to add more jobs in the second quarter, while 14 percent planned cutbacks, the survey found. Durable goods are costly manufactured items, such as farm equipment and industrial machinery, expected to last at least three years.

Manufacturers of nondurable goods also expect stronger hiring activity, with 19 percent planning more jobs and 9 percent anticipating reductions.

"We think there's going to be a slow pickup in industrial activity in the first half and quicker growth in the second," said Dave Huether, chief economist of the National Association of Manufacturers.

The Labor Department reported last week the number of people who filed claims for unemployment benefits for the first time rose by 10,000 to 383,000 the previous week.

Analysts said the increase was larger than expected but did not change their view that the labor market is starting to show signs of stabilizing after the sharp surge in layoffs last year following the September terrorist attacks.