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US - Beige Book: Staffing firms optimistic

December 05 2013

Staffing services providers are more optimistic than they were three months ago, expecting steady growth through the end of the year and into 2014, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book report released this week. Reports from the 12 Federal Reserve districts indicate that the economy continued to expand at a modest to moderate pace from early October through mid-November, and hiring increased modestly or remained unchanged across districts.

In the Boston district, staffing industry respondents report year-over-year increases in revenue. New England staffing contacts generally report strengthened business conditions through November, with low-double-digit quarter-over-quarter revenue growth, and year-over-year revenue growth in the 3 percent to 10 percent range. Labor demand is largely unchanged since August while labor supply has thinned in recent months across all industries, and is particularly tight in the software/information technology and engineering sectors. The temporary-to-permanent rate continues to be strong, with one contact reporting a 50 percent increase this year. Bill rates and pay rates have either remained flat or have modestly increased since August. Looking forward, staffing contacts are generally more optimistic than they were three months ago, expecting steady growth through the end of the year.

In the New York district, one major employment agency reports that the government shutdown in October took some momentum out of hiring, but that business has been steady in recent weeks. Another agency indicates little change in the market, with somewhat less of a seasonal slowdown than expected thus far — possibly due to mild weather. Salary offers have reportedly increased slightly. One employment agency contact observes that companies are increasingly inclined to hire long-term, full-time workers, as opposed to temps.

In the Philadelphia district, staffing firms maintained a more modest pace of growth. Staffing firms also reported steady growth in demand for temp placements, especially in manufacturing, distribution and health care.

In the Cleveland district, staffing-firms reported a slight increase in the number of both job openings and placements, with vacancies found primarily in healthcare and manufacturing.

In the Richmond district’s labor markets, both permanent and temporary employment improved slightly. A staffing agency executive remarked that it was difficult to find suitable candidates because the “skill level demanded is too high,” and that more workers are taking temp-to-permanent positions. Additionally, a recruiter in South Carolina stated that while temporary employment orders rose, full-time job openings remained depressed. Contacts reported difficulty filling permanent positions in the fields of medical, maritime, construction and information technology. A temp agency in Maryland reported that labor demand is currently targeted towards distribution, heavy manufacturing and the IT sector. Seasonal retail hiring has been generally at last year’s level, and few contacts expected to retain seasonal hires as permanent employees after the holidays.

Companies looking to hire in the Atlanta district expressed concern that their inability to find qualified labor is inhibiting business expansion. Overall, firms experiencing any growth in demand for their products expressed no plans to hire in the near term.

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