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Demand for Temporary Workers Is on the Rise

October 24, 2013

Jack Katzanek, The Press-Enterprise

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Oct. 23--Employers across the country added an estimated 148,000 workers last month, and more than one in eight of them were hired as temporary employees, federal and staffing industry reports show.

The report released Tuesday, Oct. 22, from the U.S. Department of Labor found that 20,000 of those jobs were through staffing firms that recruit workers, often for temporary tenures, for employers. The staffing industry's share of job creation is at a 13-year high, according to the American Staffing Association, an industry trade group.

These findings, coming during a month when feuding factions within the U.S. government could not reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown, suggest that many employers could have opted to hire temporary workers last month. That is a strategy many companies use when the short-term direction of the economy is unclear.

Some Inland Southern California companies that recruit temporary workers say they were busier than expected in September, but they did not connect their upticks with the turmoil that led to the federal government shutting down on Oct. 1.

"In the last couple of months, I'd say yes, we've seen an increase, but I'm not sure it was about Obamacare or anything that went on in Washington," said Evlyn Wilcox, president of the San Bernardino office of Manpower, one of the country's largest agencies. "We had a customer with a national account, and they have facilities in our area."

Personnel firms not only supply workers to employers but they absorb the time and expense that goes into hiring. One of the shutdown's ironies was that it's Wilcox's office's job to screen employees by using E-verify, the federal government's electronic verification system that checks to see whether someone is legally eligible to work.

But the shutdown closed down E-verify for 16 days. "We tried to do the best we could without it," Wilcox said.

An estimated 34,500 Riverside and San Bernardino residents were officially on the payrolls of employment services in August, the most recent month that the state Employment Development Department has data. That is several thousand fewer than what was typically seen in 2010 and 2011, during the first years of the economic recovery, when many companies were reticent about making long-term commitments to more workers.

Also, September is a month when retailers, distribution centers and other companies gear up for holiday-related volume, and that overshadowed the drama in Washington, D.C.

"For me it just seems busier because we're always busier at this time of the year," said Sarah Cullins, vice president for business development at Diamond Staffing, which has offices in Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga.

This week several of the large national personnel services firms, including Mastech Holdings and Robert Half International, reported strong revenue increases during the third quarter.

It is harder for independent local firms, however. Kathy Hartman, president of Riverside Personnel Services, said the volume of placements has been good for the last four weeks, although she said the threat of a federal shutdown was not behind it.

But business there is still inconsistent, she said. The company mostly places administrative and clerical workers.

"It's hard to say whether we're out of the hole," Hartman said. "I know better, but it is feeling more consistent."

Follow Jack Katzanek on Twitter: @JackKatzanek and check his blog on pe.com/business


(c)2013 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)

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Original headline: ECONOMY: More employers seek temp workers

Source: (c)2013 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)

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