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BRIEFING - JANUARY EMPLOYMENT BULLETIN

February 06 2009

Temp jobs down 76,000 in January
Temporary help payrolls fell by 76,000 jobs in January, the 24th monthly reduction in temp jobs out of the last 25 months. The decline represented a 22.7% drop on a year-over-year basis, the largest decline since the BLS began tracking temporary staffing employment in 1990. Temporary help penetration slipped to 1.54%, its lowest level since 1995.

Early 4Q08 earnings releases echo the BLS data.  Manpower reported 4Q08 U.S. revenue down 15% y/y on an organic basis; at Kelly Services, Americas Commercial was down 12.9% and Americas PTSA was off 7.1%; at Robert Half, U.S, revenue was down 21%; at MPS, North American Professional was down 8.9% and North American IT down 12.1%.

Only 2.5% of U.S. metros examined are seeing y/y growth in staffing employment combined with any degree of acceleration in growth; 61% are experiencing contraction at an increasing pace; the remaining 36% of metros are mixed, either contracting at a moderating pace, or expanding at a deteriorating pace.  The two best-performing metros with regard to staffing employment growth are Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown TX and San Antonio TX. (For our full analysis of staffing growth by metro, click here.)

598,000 nonfarm jobs lost
January was November and December all over again, with more than half a million jobs lost in the month.

According to the BLS, nonfarm payrolls fell by 598,000 jobs in January, the thirteenth month in a row of job loss.  Additionally, as part of its annual benchmarking, the BLS restated upward losses for 2008 by an additional 389,000 jobs.  Over the last twelve months, 3,500,000 jobs have been lost, representing 2.5% of U.S. nonfarm employment.  That's the largest percentage-wise loss since 1982.  Seventeen percent of the jobs lost in the last twelve months were temporary jobs.

With regard to January, in addition to temporary job losses of 76,000, other big sector losers included manufacturing—down 207,000 jobs, construction—off 111,000, and retail and wholesale trade together—off 76,000 jobs.  Losses for the month were well in excess of 12 month trend in seven of thirteen major industry categories.

Jobs were generated in January in just two industries.  Education and health was again the relative bright spot, up 54,000 jobs, better than its 12-month average of 45,000.  Government gained 6,000 jobs, a modest number relative to its 12-month average of 12,000 jobs. 

Over the last year, natural resources/mining scored the largest percentage-wise increase in jobs, up 5.6%, though this sector lost a slight 1,000 jobs in January.  Construction scored the largest percentage-wise decrease, down 10.0% versus the year earlier.

Automatic Data Processing (ADP), which produces an independent U.S. payroll estimate, said January job losses were 522,000.  Notably, ADP reported losses were not only widespread across all sizes of both goods and services producing companies but deteriorated versus 12-month trend across all sizes of both goods and producing companies.

Unemployment spikes to 7.6%
The unemployment rate rose to 7.6% in January—its highest rate since 1992—from 7.2% in December.  Unemployment among those without a high-school diploma is now 12.0%.

College-level unemployment rose 10 basis points to 3.8%, its highest level since the BLS began tracking this metric in 1992.  This marker is very significant both for professional staffing and direct hire, both of which are driven in part by skilled labor shortage.  

Likely reflecting the diminished prospects for direct hire and retained search, employment in these sectors is down 8.8% and roughly flat, respectively, on a year-over-year basis. (Note that these are revised percentage changes reflecting the BLS's annual benchmarking revisions.)

Most key staffing markets on negative trend
According to a Staffing Industry Analysts survey of over 700 staffing firms, the employment markets most commonly served by staffing firms are: healthcare, manufacturing (excluding auto), and finance/insurance. 

As can be seen in the chart below, growth in healthcare employment remains very strong. 

Manufacturing (excluding auto) is growing sharply weaker, losing an average of 138,000 jobs per month over the last three months. 

After moderating slightly in December, losses in the financial sector picked up again in January, confirming a trend of accelerating decline reflecting the crisis in that sector.

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