Temp firms say business is good, hiring picking up again

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Temporary hiring is rising again in the Indianapolis area, auguring a better environment for job-seekers, according to local staffing firms and government data.

But the pace of activity has yet to return even to 2008 levels, and staffing executives don’t expect it to for some time.

Employment services in the Indianapolis area reported a work force of nearly 35,000 in September, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 1,100 more workers than the same month a year ago and 4,000 more than in 2009, just after the nation’s recession officially ended.

But employment agencies would have to place another 2,500 to return to the levels of 2008 and an extra 6,000 to regain the peak seen in 2007.

Economists look at temporary hiring as a leading indicator in the employment market, since recession-weary companies often hire workers on a temporary basis and  later convert them to full-time workers.

“It’s a try-before-you-buy mentality,” said Dave Kehlor, who oversees five Express Employment Professionals offices in the Indianapolis area. “Companies, they need people, but they’re not sure about the future. … The last thing they want to do is bring on a bunch of full-time people.”

Kehlor said Express Employment’s business is booming, with nearly 500 openings its clients want filled. Oklahoma City-based Express Employment recruits individuals and then, in most cases, acts as their employer while the person works on a contract basis for the client company. Most temporary workers are not provided benefits, such as health insurance.

“Unless there’s a shock to the economy, 2012 is going to be a good year,” Kehlor said. “We’re the recovery. When you see us jamming, then you know the recovery’s underway.”

Other employment agencies echo his sentiments. Greenwood-based Apple Tree Staffing announced Tuesday that it is on pace to place 100 workers by spring and another 100 or more by the end of next year.

Apple Tree said it is seeing strong demand for manufacturing and other types of industrial work, as well as for software engineers and sales professionals.

Indianapolis-based Pinnacle Partners, which places information technology and accounting workers, has seen those sectors boom in the last 12 and six months, respectively.

“It’s good and getting better,” said Dave Reese, director of staffing in Pinnacle’s accounting division, which has grown its own staff from seven to 12 in the past six months. “I’m not sure that it’s anywhere near the pre-recession times, and I don’t know whether we’ll see those times again, honestly. Business overall has been very good for us and continues to get better.”

Earlier this year, temp hiring was running even further ahead of of its 2010 pace than it is currently, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, in June and July, temp hiring actually dipped below the levels seen in those months last year. But, in August and September it once again exceeded 2010 levels.

Even as the job market recovers, employment firms expect their clients to use temps for a higher percentage of their work forces than they did before the recession. Part of that is due to the ongoing uncertainty about the strength of the economic recovery and about the extra costs of hiring new workers created by the 2010 health reform law.

But partly it’s also a realization by employers that they can operate effectively even without hiring people full-time.

“You hear this all the time, ‘We’re real busy, but we’re just not sure this is going to last,’” said Kehlor at Express Employment. “So they say, ‘Send me 30 temporary people,’ and then they go, ‘Hey, this works pretty well. If they’re good, then I can keep them. And if they’re bad, then I can just tell the staffing firm to get rid of them and get me some better ones.’ It’s really a flex staffing model.”


  • Bad Reputation for The Staffing Industry
    As mentioned above I don't agree with the concept that you can sling bodies up against the wall and hope they stick. As a person working in the staffing industry I take a deep sense of pride by helping to service our clients and our contractors by matching people up to the right fit...not just any job available. As an employer it is our responsibility to treat people right and look out for their future interests in the job market.
  • Disagree

    ‘Hey, this works pretty well. If they’re good, then I can keep them. And if they’re bad, then I can just tell the staffing firm to get rid of them and get me some better ones.’ It’s really a flex staffing model.”

    This type of mentality is why the staffing industry has a bad reputation in the public’s mind. I work for one of the largest staffing firms in the US and just sending people over for openings to "see what happens" is not how all staffing companies work. The best ones take the time to talk with their contractors, screen them, and then only send them for positions they want and are qualified for. So you do not end up with “bad ones”. Also the overall tone was pretty impersonal, “good ones; bad ones” make the contractors sound like products, and not people. Also not the mentality that recruiters / staffing companies should have.
  • Temp agencies are legal Slave Trade
    Temp Agencies should be outlawed. "Economists look at temporary hiring as a leading indicator in the employment market, since recession-weary companies often hire workers on a temporary basis and later convert them to full-time workers". I was "temp" at SIA in Lafayette for almost 3 years before being converted. Doing the same work as other, but for 10 dollars an hour less. I wouldnt wish being a "temp" on anyone.

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