by Cameron Macht
Many employers have responded cautiously to the economic recovery by hiring temporary workers through employment services. These temporary staffing companies can be a quick and flexible solution for a company’s short-term needs, taking care of such time-consuming tasks as posting job announcements, screening applicants, interviewing candidates and placing workers. They may be a good opportunity for job seekers, too.
When businesses see increased demand for their products and services, many initially ramp up with temporary workers because they are often easier and less expensive to hire and lay off, depending on conditions. The employment services industry — often considered an economic indicator — has been a major source of recent job growth in Minnesota. As of May, the sector had already expanded by 7.3 percent, or 4,000 jobs, compared to last year.
The employment services subsector primarily consists of establishments that supply workers to client businesses for limited periods of employment. These establishments do not directly supervise the employees at client work sites. The industry also has a small number of organizations and services that list employment vacancies and assist in referring or placing applicants for temporary employment. These include Minnesota WorkForce Centers and the MinnesotaWorks.net online job bank, both managed by DEED.
It’s Only Temporary
While temp workers help employers respond to changing conditions, they can face a lot of uncertainty. Jobs can last anywhere from a couple hours to a couple years, with no guarantees of permanent employment. Still, for people who need jobs, these temporary positions can be a first step toward permanent employment. The temporary setting also gives employers a chance to test workers before perhaps hiring them as regular employees.
Nationally, the occupations most frequently employed in temp agencies include:
- Laborers and freight, stock and material movers
- Office clerks
- Team assemblers
- Packers and packagers, hand
- Helpers – production workers
- Customer service representatives
- Construction laborers
- Human resources and training specialists
- Registered nurses
- Secretaries and administrative assistants
Eight of these top 10 occupations in demand in the employment services sector can be gained with on-the-job training, with just two requiring a college degree. But according to an in-depth report (pdf) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the expanding role of temporary help services, the demand for temporary employees has shifted away from low-skill, low-paying jobs in recent years to more high-skill, high-paying positions.
For a job seeker with advanced skills who has struggled to get back into the labor market during the recovery, temporary employment might be the best opportunity to earn money, update skills, gain experience and get a foot in the door at a growing employer. As businesses become more confident, those doors may open to a permanent job.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Minnesota Economic Trends.