More U.S. companies are expected to increase their hiring in the third quarter, in their biggest push in more than a year, according to Manpower Inc.'s Employment Outlook Survey.

The survey, which polled nearly 16,000 public and private firms in 477 U.S. markets, found that 27% plan to add employees in the third quarter, compared with only 21% in the second quarter. Of the companies surveyed, 59% expect to maintain their current staff levels in the third quarter.

At the same time, only 8% of employers said they planned to cut their current work force in the third quarter, compared with 10% in the second quarter.

The hiring outlook is the most positive in five quarters and is consistent with past recovery periods, says Jeffrey Joerres, Manpower's chairman and CEO. And while hiring activity is increasing, he noted, it hasn't returned to pre-recession levels.

The bellwether Manpower survey showing hiring optimism comes just after last week's initial- jobless-claims report from the Labor Department found that the number of people drawing unemployment in April grew 61,000, to 3.8 million, a 19-year high.

Manufacturers of durable and nondurable goods again showed the biggest improvement in hiring intentions, followed by the service sector. Of durable-goods makers, 27% said they expected to increase hiring in the third quarter, up from 20% in the second quarter. Among makers of nondurable goods, 27% said they plan to add more employees in the third quarter, up from 19% in the second quarter.