25% of workers to become temps?

Temporary staffing jumps, leading some experts to predict a quarter of the workforce could fall into that category.

By Kim Peterson Dec 7, 2009 2:43PM
Brown-bag lunch © Digital Vision/Getty ImagesThe November jobs report offered some surprising good news, but one disturbing trend seems to be emerging: Temporary jobs are gaining steam.

These types of jobs are getting so popular, in fact, that some experts predict that 25% of the American workforce could become temps, according to USA Today.
Seems hard to believe, doesn't it? Could a quarter of us really lose the safety net of permanent employment and make a career out of jumping from job to job?

Here's why some people think so:

Projects turn over quickly. Technology and other improvements are drastically cutting the time needed to finish projects.

"Product launches used to take several years –- now it can be only six months," a staffing industry analyst told USA Today. "You need a flexible workforce to ramp up and move to the next project."

Companies want to be nimble. The economic crash left companies agonizing over payroll and other fixed costs. A devastating wave of layoffs followed.

Now, bosses want to be able to react faster when things head south. One way to do that is to use more temps, who can be quickly and easily let go.

Temps are cheaper. No costs for health insurance and other benefits. Less pay and no raises. And to make the pot even sweeter, there's the possibility of hiring overseas contractors.

The November jobs report found that the number of temp jobs increased by 52,000 -- the most since 2004. And many were encouraged by that number, saying that companies first turn to temps before they hire full-time workers. So the temp hires must indicate a new interest in full-time employment.

But what if that's wrong? What if more companies find that temp workers are, for economic and other reasons, preferable to permanent ones?

Where does that leave the American worker?

It will take years for the economy to recover to pre-crash levels. And the state of the U.S. workforce may take even longer. Many of those lost jobs aren't coming back.

It used to be that temps were mainly used for office and clerical work. That's changing, reports USA Today, and now even doctors and engineers are moving into those jobs.

This might be a good time for investors to look into the stocks of temporary staffing companies. Manpower (MAN) says its business rose 10% to 15% last quarter. Other agencies report similar spikes in business.

Related reading:



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