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Temporary Workers Make Huge Comeback

U.S. News & World Report (08/24/12) Danielle Kurtzleben

After reaching a high of almost 2.7 million employees in 2006, the temporary staffing industry lost more than one-third of its participants during the recession. Since then, it has recovered 87% of the employees it lost and continues to add them. This compares favorably to all private employers, which have only recovered a little more than half of their jobs. “It’s very significantly punching over its weight,” says Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at accounting firm J.H. Cohn, of the staffing industry’s significant recent growth. The industry may see further growth as companies delay hiring permanent employees.

Even once the economy picks up steam, the temporary staffing industry could easily remain robust, because temporary employees have become a critical component of the work force. Temporary employees comprise 2.3% of the work force, up from just over half a percent in 1983. “It’s a structural transformation,” notes Arne Kalleberg, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina. “Just like subcontracting and outsourcing—doing these things to keep costs down—I can’t see the end of it.”