Staffing Hires Help Boost May Jobs Numbers

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Jun 1, 2012

Temporary staffing was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department today.

Only 69,000 jobs total were created during May; 9,200 (13.3%) came from the temp sector. So far this year, temp hiring has created 94,600 jobs.

Besides surprising analysts who had been expecting the report to show about 150,000 new jobs, the government revised down its March and April job counts. April went from 115,000 to 77,000 and March’s initial 154,000 was trimmed to 143,000.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now 2.491 million temp workers. That’s an 8.5% increase over May 2011. For comparison, jobs nationally only increased by 1.36% year-over-year.

Those seasonally adjusted numbers pale, however, in comparison to the raw, or unadjusted numbers. Using those counts, the temp sector added 72,800 positions from April to May. (Economists adjust employment numbers up or down to account for seasonality and statistical aberrations in the estimates. Job counts are based on surveys conducted each month by the BLS.)

“The nonseasonally adjusted numbers for temporary help employment, which provides a real-time snapshot of what’s going on in the economy,” commented Richard Wahlquist, president and chief executive officer of the American Staffing Association, “suggests continued — albeit agonizingly slow — improvement.”

Even so, temporary hiring has surged since hitting bottom in the summer of 2009. As the bar chart shows, the total number of temporary workers is approaching the peak years of 2006 and 2005, when a high of 2.567 million workers were employed by the staffing industry. If the current rate of growth continues the industry could surpass that milestone later this year.

However the gains in staffing were offset by losses in the employment sector overall, which collectively added 6,200 jobs seasonally adjusted or 81.1 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. The sector includes search firms, nurse registries, modeling agencies, and other placement services.

Specific breakout data for executive search firms runs a month behind and is available only on an unadjusted basis. For April, search firms added about 100 workers. But with cuts in January and March, the net gain since the year began is 200 for a total of 31,100 search firm employees as of April.

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