SI Review: September 2013

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Research Report: Debunking the Myth

Despite negative perceptions, temp staffing does lead to jobs

By Theodore Vadpey

Contrary to many of the negative temporary staffing narratives reported in the news, these provisional assignments do help people find full-time jobs.

In a survey conducted in the summer of 2012, we asked staffing firms serving a variety of industries what portion of their temporary workers typically cross over to full-time positions. Based on responses from more than 600 individual staffing firms, we found that the median “temp-to-perm conversion rate” is around 15 percent, or one in six placements.

At first glance, this may seem only to be a small minority. However, when one considers that the average assignment length of a temporary worker is around 11 weeks (according to the American Staffing Association) and that temps may do multiple such assignments in succession — the odds look very different. On the median, a temp who does three or four consecutive assignments has a more than 40 percent chance of being converted to full-time, traditional status. In today’s competitive job market, where job seekers may find themselves among several hundred applicants, such odds are hard to beat.

Click on chart below to enlarge.

And when one breaks the conversion rates down by industry, the results are surprising: At the top of the list — with the highest portion of workers converting to full-time — are temp workers on commercial (office/ clerical and industrial) assignments. Assignments within the manufacturing industry had the highest conversion rates — within temp segments, office/ clerical and industrial/logistics were the winners. This contradicts the expectation one might have regarding high demand for professional positions that IT, healthcare or other professional temporary workers may enjoy (though the truth may be that these individuals are often not looking for full-time work anyway).

On the median, 33 percent of temporary workers on assignment serving the manufacturing industry, and 30 percent of office/clerical temporary workers convert to full-time positions. That gives these job seekers roughly a 60 percent chance of finding a full-time job with just two assignments. Pretty good, right? And the distribution among staffing firms is not overly skewed either — at the 25th percentile, conversion rates don’t fall below 20 percent for manufacturing. At the 75th percentile, they are more than 50 percent.

So when you hear an anecdote criticizing temporary labor — remember that for many job seekers, temporary work may be the best shot they have of finding a full-time job.

Theodore Vadpey is a research associate at Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at tvadpey@staffingindustry.com

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