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BRIEFING - AUGUST EMPLOYMENT SITUATION

September 05 2008

Temp jobs off 37,000
Temporary help payrolls fell by 37,000 jobs in August, the 19th monthly reduction in temp jobs out of the last 20 months. On a year-over-year basis, temporary help payrolls were down 9.1%, the largest year-over-year decline since 2002. Temporary help penetration slipped to 1.71%, its lowest level since 2003.

According to data from the second-quarter Staffing Industry Benchmarking Consortium, which represents about a quarter of all temporary staffing revenue, the weakest segment at the moment is office/clerical. Industrial temporary staffing revenue is declining as well, but more moderately than expected. On the professional side, information technology and finance/accounting are running about flat. The strongest segment is healthcare.

Manufacturing and retail cut non-temp jobs
According to the BLS, nonfarm payrolls fell by 84,000 jobs in August, the eighth month in a row of job loss. Additionally, the BLS restated downward by a sharp 58,000 the nonfarm payroll number for July.

Once again, temporary staffing made up a disproportionately large portion of the nonfarm job loss. Of the 84,000 nonfarm jobs lost in August, temporary staffing losses accounted for 44%. Non-temporary jobs fell 47,000. These non-temp losses could be more than accounted for by declines in just two categories: manufacturing, which cut 61,000 jobs, and retail, which cut 20,000 jobs. Automobile manufacturing alone accounted for the loss of 39,000 jobs, its largest one-month loss since 1998.

Although leisure and hospitality lost just 4,000 jobs, this represents a notable deterioration versus its 12-month average gain of 15,000.

Areas of the economy seeing significantly improved job performance in August (decreased job loss or increased job creation) were construction, financial activities and natural resources/mining. Construction lost just 8,000 jobs, markedly lower than its twelve month average loss of 36,000. Financial activities lost 3,000 jobs, as compared to its average loss over the last twelve months of 9,000 jobs. And natural resources/mining gained 12,000 jobs, more than double its twelve month average of 5,000.

Automatic Data Processing (ADP), which produces an independent U.S. payroll estimate, measured payroll jobs lost in August at 33,000, with gains in service jobs at small and medium-sized companies partially offsetting losses at all size levels of goods producing businesses. The ADP and BLS payroll estimates, which historically have moved together to some degree, have been diverging throughout 2008. ADP estimates jobs created year-to-date of 33,000. This compares with the BLS estimate of jobs lost of 564,000, a gap of more than half a million.

The BLS estimate of total U.S. jobs in July, of 137,473, is down 0.21% from year-ago levels.

College-level unemployment spikes to 2.7%
College-level unemployment rose to 2.7%, its fourth month in a row of increase, and the highest level since 2005. 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, employment at placement agencies was down 3.5% from the previous year. Employment at executive search agencies was also down 2.8%. However, these declines represent a moderation in internal staff reductions, which had lately exceeded the 5% range.

General unemployment rose to 6.1%, up from 5.7% in July. Although this represents the highest level of general unemployment since 2004, it remains moderate by historical standards.

Key staffing markets mixed
According to a Staffing Industry Analysts survey of over 700 staffing firms, the employment markets most commonly served by staffing firms are: healthcare, non-auto manufacturing and finance/insurance. As can be seen in the charts below, growth in healthcare employment remains very strong. Non-auto manufacturing is among the weakest employment markets. Finance/insurance is losing a small number of jobs but has recovered from larger levels of losses.

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