According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 3Q09 revenue in the U.S. employment services industry was down 7% from 3Q08, not bad at all given the recession.
Really? Down just 7%? That seems doubtful.
The "employment services industry" includes employment placement agencies, temporary help services and employee leasing. A few loose ends aside, that is pretty much what we call "staffing."
However, the 29 public staffing firms we track reported a median 3Q09 versus 3Q08 decline of 27% in revenue--a far cry from 7%. Likewise, the American Staffing Association estimates temporary and contract staffing sales, which make up well more than half of total staffing, to be down 26%. Likewise, our Staffing Industry Monthly Pulse Survey, a survey of roughly 200 staffing firms, has been indicating an industry decline in the range of 25%.
Staffing Industry Analysts' December forecast update projects total staffing industry revenue to decline 26% for full year 2009 versus 2008.
No doubt there is an explanation, perhaps definitional differences with regard to revenue (gross versus net) within sub-sectors, small sample size, disproportionate sub-samples by sub-sector, who knows?
One thing that would help to reconcile this kind of discrepancy would be if the Census would start providing revenue data at a finer industry level, not just employment services in aggregate but separately--temporary help, employment placement, etc. There is precedent, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics already reports employment trends at that sub-sector level.
Given the growing importance of temporary staffing in particular--not only as a major business sector but as an economic indicator--that information would be welcome to a good many people. And then maybe we could understand how they got to that 7% number.