Moving in the Right Direction

A Staffing Company’s View of the Job Market

Many experts will have you believe the “Great Recession” officially ended in June of 2009.  June of 2009?  Really?  Explain that one to the thousands of people that have not worked in 2 years or to those that have had to take a significant pay cut or change professions because their skill set is no longer in demand.  No, things have remained difficult for many since June of 2009.  A great number of people have exhausted their unemployment benefits and many are still experiencing layoffs.  However, there is light at the end of the tunnel…I just always preferred hearing the bad news before the good news.

An excellent barometer for the employment market has always been the staffing industry.  Financial experts often look to our industry to guide them with decisions and predictions.  Typically, when the economy begins to experience a downturn, staffing companies will see it first.  Companies will start by eliminating temporary personnel and slow down or put a freeze on new hires.  Layoffs often follow these initial steps.  Conversely, as the economy starts to rebound, staffing companies will experience a pickup in business activity prior to many other industries.  As companies begin to build confidence in the demand for their product or service, they often reach out to staffing companies to ease back into the hiring process.  Business is picking up but they do not want to make a full-time commitment yet to new hires.  During these times companies like the flexibility that comes with working with a staffing firm.  Hiring temporary employees is a common practice when ramping up the workforce.

The demand for our services started to wane in the second half of 2008 and continued to decline through most of 2009.  It was not until 2010 that we started to see some good signs. Pockets of activity were starting to appear and interview activity was increasing.   The challenge was the consistency of new orders from our clients.  The recovery was happening, but it was in the form of steps…a flurry of activity followed by a lull of new orders, followed by good activity, etc.  The majority of this demand was for our temporary and temp to hire staffing services with a slight uptick in direct hire.  This pattern continued throughout 2010.  It was obviously a better year than 2009 but it was still a struggle at times.

This brings us to 2011 and the report is…so far so good!  We, along with the staffing industry as a whole, have experienced strong and consistent growth in the first half of the year.  Additionally, more assignments are for longer periods and more of our temporary employees are transitioning to our client’s payrolls.  Direct hire orders are up and the time frame from first interview to hire has shortened.  These are clearly all good signs that we are moving in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go.  One interesting trend we are seeing is the increase in requests for part-time temporaries.  This is a sign that there is still a lot of caution out there when adding personnel decisions are being made.  We will still experience some lulls or dips this year but I believe they will be short lived.  It may be slow, but things ARE changing for the better.  I wish everyone continued success in 2011 and beyond!


Bill Emerson

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