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Temporary Workers Near U.S. Record

Bloomberg Businessweek (05/10/13) Jeff Green

The number of temporary employees and their percentage of the U.S. work force likely will set records this year, according to a number of forecasts. The U.S. has added 913,200 temporary employees since June 2009, or about 19% of all new jobs. In April the number of temporary employees rose to 2.66 million, just 11,300 short of the April 2000 record, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“It is going to eclipse the prior record high,” says Paul McDonald, a senior executive director at Robert Half International, adding that penetration of 2.5% to 3% is possible at some point. “This recovery is producing jobs on a temporary basis even faster than the last recovery.”

A boost in consumer demand, a growing need for flexibility, and health care reform are causing companies to utilize staffing firms. Furthermore, companies remain reluctant to hire permanent employees amid questions about whether the economic expansion will weaken, which has been good news for staffing firms.

“There’s been this push to get things just in time,” says Jeffrey Joerres, chief executive officer at ManpowerGroup. “Companies have gotten their hands forced on being more adept at trying to figure out their demands for talent as much as their demand for capital resources.”

A range of companies including automakers, retailers, and pharmaceutical firms are relying on temporary staff. Ford Motor Co., for example, has increased its use of temporary employees by 11% over the past year. “Staffing companies allow us to be more nimble, especially with project-based, time-specific positions that require specialized expertise,” says Dan Fortunato, director of purchasing for construction and services.