SI Review: June 2013


Research Report: Older and bluer

Older and Bluer

The temp staffing workforce at a glance

By Robert Balicki

In the aftermath of the great recession, job growth in temp staffing has far outpaced overall job growth. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of U.S. jobs grew a total of only 2 percent. In the same time period, the number of jobs in the U.S. temp staffing industry (which includes temporary workers and staffing firms’ internal employees) grew 38 percent.

Many forces underlie this trend, from cyclical reasons, to increased cultural acceptance of temporary work, to uncertainty about the stability of the recovery, to changes in technology that make project-based work more feasible. Certainly, the world of staffing has been transformed by the advent of VMS technology and has been exposed to a new method of getting work done from online staffing companies.

During this time, the composition of the temporary staffing workforce has also changed substantially. Let us take a look at the forces driving this shift. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the “employment services” industry for the years 2000 and 2012 help explain some of the change.

Although “employment services” also contains internal employees at employment placement agencies, professional employer organizations and staffing agencies, the bulk of the group (around three-quarters in 2012, according to Staffing Industry Analysts’ estimates) are temporary workers. Caution should be exercised when interpreting these results.

The charts below show the given group’s “relative penetration,” the proportion of workers in the group that are in the “employment services” industry, divided by the proportion of all workers in the industry. Bars above 100 percent mean that the group has a larger proportion of workers in employment services than workers overall.

An Aging Temporary Workforce

Chart 1 shows changes in the age composition of the temporary workforce, and is unaffected by overall temp staffing growth or by the aging of the workforce as a whole.

The relative penetration of those aged 20-24 has decreased substantially, while the relative penetration rate of 35-64 year olds has increased.

Possibly, this reflects 35-64 year olds re-entering the workforce. Because the penetration rate fell somewhat for the 65+ crowd, it seems more likely that the increase is due to stay-at-home spouses finding part-time work and workers who were laid off or whose hours were cut turning to temporary staffing to supplement their income.

Transportation and Production Are Big

Chart 2 shows that the staffing industry has made tremendous inroads into blue-collar occupations. The relative penetration rate for transportation; production; construction and extraction; protective services; and installation, maintenance and repair occupations increased over the period examined. Only farming, fishing and forestry occupations buck this trend.

Industrial staffing firms in particular should take heart from all this. The expansion of temp penetration in blue collar occupations is notable, and is consistent with a generally superior performance for this area. SIA currently forecasts industrial staffing to grow 6 percent in 2013.

Robert Balicki is a research analyst at Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at


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