The Staffing Economy: Still Looking Up—For Now

Half a year ago, in “Temporary Staffing: On the Rise—and Boosting the Economy,” I pointed out that numbers from 2012 indicated that employers’ reliance on temporary workers had grown—and that this growth was set to continue. Fast forward six months, and we see that this predication has proved true: the October Employment Situation report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that staffing firms continued to add jobs to the economy over the past year. The September 2013 numbers were up 0.7% over the previous month’s and up 9% over those from September 2012. If you look at just 2013 alone, the numbers are up a whopping 15.1%!

What does this mean? For starters, it means that growth in the temporary staffing market slowed a bit in the late summer. Staffing experts note, however, that this downward trend is part of an annual cycle each fall, with the figures moving up again after the holiday season. So the 15.1% rate drops to 9% when the typically slow months are included.

But the numbers were still positive, not negative, and part of an upward trend, so they still indicate that the economy is getting better. A Wall Street Journalarticle published on the heels of the release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers for October quotes Richard Wahlquist, chief executive of the American Staffing Association:

While temporary-staffing firms bounced back with double-digit growth early in the recovery, the pace has slipped since 2012, Mr. Wahlquist said. “It’s still slowing down in 2013, but our data indicate growth nonetheless.”

What’s the take-home from all these figures? In short, the temporary staffing market is going strong—and still growing.

Before you start popping champagne corks, however, keep in mind that markets can change on a dime. Today’s high demand for temp labor could morph into tomorrow’s sluggish economy. Sure, economists, financial analysts, and business leaders are usually pretty good at predicting employment trends. But “no one saw it coming” moments do occasionally affect the market, both for good and for bad.

So don’t rest on your laurels. Sure, go ahead and take a few minutes to celebrate this positive news about the staffing industry. But if you want to remain competitive in this field, you must constantly look ahead. If you provide excellent service to your clients, develop and maintain a strong candidate pool, and cultivate new relationships with prospects, you’ll be well prepared for any downturn that might lie around the corner!


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