The temp industry ended 2012 on a down note in December, but just barely, shedding a mere 600 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was only the third time in a year that the number of temporary and contract workers declined.
Overall the U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs in December, according to numbers released today in Washington by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For the year, temp staffing firms added 153,400 jobs to the economy. That represents 8.4% of the 1.835 million jobs created in 2012. On average, the industry added 12,800 new jobs a month. Only a handful of other industries added jobs faster, among them, healthcare (+337,700), and food services and drinking places (+285,600).
With 2.55 million temp and contract workers on the job in December, the industry is now only 107,700 new jobs away from its 10 year high of 2.6574 million workers reached in August 2006.
Richard Wahlquist, president and chief executive officer of the American Staffing Association, attributed the growth in temp workers to businesses “strategically (embracing) flexible work force solutions to increase productivity and competitiveness. Although temporary and contract employment represents just under 2% of total employment, staffing firms accounted for 8% of all of new jobs created in 2012.”
Executive search firms also added workers during the year. In November, the most recent month for which the government has released numbers, search firms hired 1,000 new workers. The 36,100 employees is the largest search firm workforce of the last 11 years. In the 12 months ending in November, search firms added 5,600 jobs. These include recruiters and support staff.
Placement agencies dropped 1,900 jobs between October and November, but was up over November 2011 by 9,200. This category includes all types of registries, theatrical agencies, professional nanny and babysitting referral services, and placement agencies, among others. In November these firms employed 259,400 workers.
The outlook for temp services in 2013 continues to be strong. A CareerBuilder survey of corporate HR leaders and hiring managers found 40% of employers plan to hire temporary and contract workers up from 36% last year. Among these employers, 42% plan to transition some temporary workers into full-time, permanent employees over the next 12 months.
Retained and contingent recruiters, however, can expect 2013 to be a lot like the year just ended. A Dice Holdings survey of two months ago reported that 20% of employers expect to use external recruiters to fill positions. That percentage is right where it’s been for the last two years, Dice said. More employers — 28% — will turn to external recruiters to fill their tech openings.