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More Temporary Jobs and Contract Positions Coming in 2011

When times get tough, temporary jobs are the first to go. And when times get better, temporary jobs are the first to reappear. So it’s good to hear that the pace of growth in the temporary staffing agency industry in the fall of 2010 was the fastest recorded since the industry began keeping statistics back in the mid-1940s.    

On a year-to-year basis, 19.5 percent more temporary workers were employed in September 2010 compared with the same month last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Companies create temporary jobs to staff up without making a long-term commitment a practice that appeals when the economy is uncertain and healthcare requirements are changing, says Brendan Courtney, president of recruiting and staffing agency The Mergis Group, a division of SFN Group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The trend toward temporary jobs was going strong in the final quarters of 2010, and that bodes well for 2011, says Rachel Russell, marketing director for TEKsystems, a Hanover, Maryland, staffing agency specializing in IT contracting. “Shareholders aren’t smiling on permanent hiring just yet,” she says. “They want to see things go well consistently before you bring on staff.”

A Permanent Shift to Temp Jobs

The number of temporary jobs has been climbing steadily for the past year — a trend Melanie Holmes, vice president of staffing agency Manpower, expects to continue into 2011.

It’s not just a recovering economy that’s leading to growth in the number of temporary jobs, she says. “The nature of work is changing,” she says. “Because of technology, we’re able to work anywhere, at any time, and not just from home or from Starbucks, but from India. That’s changed the way some employers look for employees. They recognize they’re always going to want to have a contingent workforce and to staff up or down to meet their needs.”

On the other side of the recession, temporary jobs and contract jobs will become more the norm, Courtney predicts. “A lot of people who would normally only want to work in a permanent, full-time position are going to have to look at contract and temporary positions because that’s going to become a bigger part of how companies hire and staff,” he says.

The move toward temporary jobs is pronounced in finance and accounting,  says Jodi Chavez, a senior vice president at Ajilon Professional Staffing, a staffing agency division of the Adecco Group in Melville, New York.

“We’ve seen an increase in companies that have never used temporary services before using them now,” Chavez says. “Across the county, we’ve probably seen a 17 percent to 20 percent increase in new customers in education, nonprofits, healthcare, manufacturing and financial services. And 90 percent of the clients we work with are telling us they plan to increase hiring in the first or second quarter of 2011.”

Who’s Got Temp Jobs?

Who’s hiring temp workers? Historically, temp hiring follows a certain path after recessions: Light industrial jobs come out first, then clerical and administrative, followed by professional jobs, Courtney says. “Right now it’s disproportionately light industrial and clerical, and on the professional side, IT, engineering and accounting have begun to pick up,” he says.

Holiday retail hiring is booming, rising 25 percent year-over-year even after seasonal adjustments are made, Chavez says.

Healthcare companies are turning to temps to help them comply with international diagnostic coding mandates. “All healthcare companies are looking for the same IT project managers to get the job done,” Russell says.

In IT, the skill sets in most demand in the coming year will be project managers; business analysts; enterprise, networking and Java architects; as well as security, data warehousing and business intelligence, Russell predicts.

“Technology today is seen as a strategic function, so even though it’s a tough economy, we’re seeing the rate of employment going up in IT,” she says. “IT includes a lot of project-based work, so that bodes well for the temp sector.”

How to Find a Temp Job

If you’re seeking a temporary job or contract work:

  • Reskill yourself and continue learning so you stay on the cutting edge of your industry.
  • Wrap your head around the fact that the temporary job and contract labor markets are growing faster than the full-time, permanent labor market, so a full-on job search should include looking for a temporary job and project work.
  • The stigma attached to having a temporary job is diminishing. Better to be a temp or contract worker than unemployed.
  • Seek out project-based assignments that put your skill set to work in a new industry.
  • If you use a temporary agency, pick one that specializes in your industry. It’s more likely to find you work with companies that value your industry knowledge.

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