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ASA Survey: Staffing Employment Sees Seasonal Dip in First Quarter

U.S. staffing companies employed an average of 2.7 million temporary and contract workers per week in the first quarter of 2021, according to data released today by the American Staffing Association—down about 100,000 from the fourth quarter of 2020.

On a quarter-to-quarter basis, staffing employment and sales typically peak in the fourth quarter, decline in the first quarter, and grow in subsequent quarters. That seasonal pattern continued, but at the lowest reduction in rates since the first quarter of 2010, with staffing jobs contracting by 3.6% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021 and staffing sales declining by 2.6%.

Staffing jobs declined 3.7% in the first quarter of 2021 from the same period in 2020, while temporary and contract staffing sales increased 5.2% year-to-year—totaling $33.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021.

“Staffing firms are currently on the front lines helping America address a new crisis—millions of more new jobs are being created than there are people currently seeking work,” said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and chief executive officer. “To support continued economic growth, getting sidelined workers vaccinated, upskilled, and back into the workforce must be top priorities for the government and the private sector as we continue to put the pandemic behind us.”

Network in Your Niche—Virtually

As your staffing firm faces new challenges and tries to answer unexpected questions, are you dealing with questions that are specific to your sector of the staffing industry? Get insight from industry peers during a sector-specific peer networking call where you can discuss top-of-mind challenges and devise solutions. Calls are facilitated by volunteers from ASA section communities (participants will not receive official legal updates or guidance regarding Covid-19).

Get the full schedule and register at

  • Office–administrative section: Tuesday, June 15, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time
  • Search and placement section: Wednesday, June 16, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time
  • Engineering, IT, and scientific section: Thursday, June 17, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time
  • Hospitality staffing: Wednesday, June 30, 4–4:30 p.m. Eastern time
  • Industrial section: Tuesday, July 20, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time
  • Professional–managerial section: Wednesday, July 21, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time
  • Health care section: Thursday, July 22, 1–2 p.m. Eastern time

Networking calls are open to members of ASA sections, which are sector-specific communities that provide resources, webinars, town hall forums, and sector-specific news for member companies and their employees. To join a section, update your profile on ASA Central.

New Staffing Professionals Starting? Onboarding Courses Available on ASA Learn

Looking to enhance your new hire process and your team’s knowledge of the staffing industry? Need to train new hires or offer refresher courses to seasoned team members? ASA has developed a program of onboarding courses specifically designed for staffing, recruiting, and workforce solutions professionals.

You can purchase and assign courses to your team and track their progress using the ASA learning management system, ASA Learn. The online course modules include “Introduction to the Staffing Industry,” “Fundamentals of Sales,” and “Fundamentals of Recruiting.” Modules are available as a full set or a la carte. To learn more, visit

The Latest From Your Colleagues on ASA Central

ASA Central—the dynamic online community just for staffing professionals—is home to more than 20,000 staffing professional profiles and countless ongoing industry conversations.

This week, take a look at your colleagues’ discussions and some of the blogs they’ve posted on ASA Central:

Get involved with the community—update your profile today so you can network with colleagues, join a section community, recommend and comment on your colleagues’ posts, and share your own blog or discussion post. Log in to ASA Central now.

New ASA Issue Paper Discusses IRS COBRA Guidance and Its Application to Temporary Employees

ASA has published an updated issue paper on the federal subsidy of health insurance premiums under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The updated paper discusses the May 18 guidance from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (Notice 2021-31), which addresses termination of employees and includes a reference to employees of staffing agencies. The issue paper concludes, based on the IRS guidance, that staffing agencies have good arguments that the end of temporary and contract assignments generally should not be viewed as involuntary terminations.

ASA has reached out to the IRS for comment on the association’s conclusions. Pending clarification from the IRS, the paper suggests that staffing agencies might consider taking a conservative approach by providing the required COBRA notice whenever an employee loses coverage due to the termination of an assignment, irrespective of whether the termination can be viewed as involuntary.