"Hiring is exploding in the one corner of the U.S. economy where few want to be hired: Temporary work." So goes the lede sentence in a piece by the Associated Press about the rise of temps, freelancers, contract workers and consultants, a piece no doubt inspired by this ProPublica story entitled The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed.
That story, in turn, is part of an ongoing series called Temp Land: Working in the New Economy, that sheds light on a section of the workforce ProPublica claims is grossly exploited.
The AP's story doesn't exactly reach the same conclusion, though they do contend the trend toward temps is not a positive one.
The piece on the whole is however much more balanced journalistically than ProPublica's, and they do talk to several industry voices, something I thought was sorely lacking in the ProPublica post.
AP claims the number of temps has jumped more than 50% since "the recession ended four years ago," and that temps, freelancers, contract workers and consultants comprise 12% of everyone with a job.
The number of temps has jumped more than 50% since "the recession ended four years ago," and temps, freelancers, contract workers and consultants comprise 12% of everyone with a job.
"Hiring is always healthy for an economy," states the AP story. "Yet the rise in temp and contract work shows that many employers aren't willing to hire for the long run."
Of course there is continuing uncertainty about the economy, coupled with employers' desires for more flexibility in their workforce, which is driving this trend.
The story also says some employers have looked to temporary workers to sidestep the new Affordable Care Act legislation mandating "medical coverage for permanent workers."
Whatever the driver(s), an Associated Press survey of 37 economists in May finds that three-quarters of them think the increased use of temps and contract workers represents a long-standing trend, and that some lasting changes are taking root in the way we employ people.
Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says, "There's been a generational shift toward a less committed relationship between the firm and the worker."
"There's been a generational shift toward a less committed relationship between the firm and the worker."
The trend toward contract workers, says the AP, has been intensified by the depth of the recession and the slow pace of the recovery. A heavy investment in long-term employment isn't a cost all companies want to bear anymore.
"There's much more appreciation of the importance of having flexibility in the workforce," says Barry Asin, the president of Staffing Industry Analysts.
This just-in-time workforce that you pay only when you need them has other advantages, according to Jeff Joerres, CEO of ManpowerGroup.
"It opens more doors for people to enter the labor market," says Joerres.
About a third of temporary workers are in the manufacturing sector, according to the Associated Press, and about 20% are in administrative positions.
Temp hiring has accelerated, the article states, even though the economy has 2.4 million fewer jobs than it did five years ago.
Temp hiring has accelerated, the article states, even though the economy has 2.4 million fewer jobs than it did five years ago. Temp jobs made up about 10% of jobs lost to the recession. and have made up nearly 20% of the jobs gained since the recession ended.
The AP story has been receiving very wide play. I found it on the websites of the Detroit News, Boston Globe, Fox and ABC News to name just a few.
Have you seen this latest AP story on your local media outlets? Do you think it's more balanced than the ProPublica piece? Is there any part of the story you find troubling, or do you think this exposure - and these hiring trends - are positive?