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UPDATE 2-Adecco sees gradual improvement in hiring during April

* Company seeing gradual improvement in April

* Expects Q2 to be significantly better than weak Q2 2020

* U.S. recovery being helped by vaccine roll out, Biden stimulus (Rewrites, adding CFO comment)

ZURICH, May 4 (Reuters) - Adecco Group is seeing a gradual improvement in hiring in April, the staffing company said on Tuesday, after renewed pandemic restrictions put the brakes on the recovery at the start of the year.

The company’s revenue increased 2% from a year earlier during the first quarter, when adjusted for currency movements and trading days, as a weaker January and February were compensated for by a much stronger March.

Growth accelerated to 9% in March - helped by the easier comparison with last year when revenues collapsed 18% during the first wave of the pandemic.

“January, February and March had very stable weekly volumes – not much up, not much down,” Chief Financial Officer Coram Williams told Reuters

“We think that the restrictions in place in some of our key European territories were acting as a cap on further growth.”

However, restrictions were being lifted and vaccination rollouts gathering pace in April, the start of the company’s second quarter.

“The recovery is coming back in April, although it is still early days and there is still uncertainty about the vaccination programmes and a degree of economic uncertainty as well,” Williams said.

“But we are starting to see a gradual improvement again.”

The second quarter should see “significant growth” compared with last year, although Williams cautioned about reading too much into this as revenue fell 28% in Q2 2020.

Results from Adecco and other staffing companies like Randstad are seen as indicators of broader economic activity as companies tend to take on temporary staff at the beginning of an upturn, and let them go more easily during a downturn.

Adecco’s reported first quarter revenue fell 3% to 4.97 billion euros, missing analyst expectations of 5.03 billion euros. However, net income for shareholders of 124 million euros beat forecasts for 97 million euros.

Sectors like logistics, ecommerce and pharmaceuticals which had prospered during the pandemic remained strong, Williams said, while there were early signs of a recovery in battered industries like hospitality, tourism and catering.

The recovery in hiring in the manufacturing sector had halted during the January to March period, he said, although the outlook there was also looking brighter.

In the United States, there was an upturn in permanent white collar recruitment, in areas like engineering and R&D, Williams said.

“There is no question the U.S. economy is coming back strongly, partly due to the vaccine roll out and partly due to the stimulus,” Williams said. (Reporting by John Revill and Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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