Employment Optimism: Clear Signs of Increase in Temp-to-Perm and New Hires

According to a USA Today article published on March 8, 2010, a growing number of businesses are converting temporary workers to permanent employees, signaling the start of an improved job market. According to the article, temporary jobs increased by 48,000 in February 2010 to two million, and are up 284,000 since September 2009. And an increase in temporary hiring is a usually a leading indicator that permanent hiring will be on the rise.

In a normal economy, one in three temporary workers is ultimately made a full time employee. That ratio plunged to well under 10 percent during the recession, according to Jonas Prising, head of Manpower’s Americas division. But about 30 percent of the temporary workers placed by Employco’s Carlisle Staffing unit have become permanent hires in recent months. That’s up from 2 percent during the downturn. And Tig Gilliam, CEO of Adecco North America, stated the company has recently seen a whopping 50 percent rise in its temporary placements who go full time. All this bodes well for temporary workers.

In terms of new hires, a Manpower Employment Outlook Survey of 18,000 U.S. employers revealed that 16 percent anticipate increasing staff levels in 2Q 2010, 73 percent expect to keep staffing levels the same, and eight percent expect a decrease. These findings net an increase of eight percent and +five percent when seasonally adjusted. And approximately half the firms surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) are boosting hiring in March 2010, the most in two years. While these findings don’t signal a rousingly positive increase, any increase in today’s job market is good. 

Globally, there is much more optimism according to the Manpower survey. Employers in most job markets expect hiring levels in 2Q 2010 to at least equal (or in some cases exceed) those in the same period last year, signaling a long-time-in-coming return to positive job growth. The Asia Pacific region has the strongest job outlook, led by India and Taiwan. While the outlook for job growth in the Americas is modest, Europe is mixed. Although European companies may not be ready to return to year-over-year-growth, the view is that hiring will at least keep pace with the Q4 2009.

What does this indication of hiring increases mean for the recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) industry? Not reason yet for providers to jump for joy, but certainly good news for them as many RPO contracts have been restructured to pay on a more variable basis, i.e., per hire. And going back to statements targeted to potential RPO buyers in a couple of my previous blogs…with staffing levels in many cases cut to the bone and with employee satisfaction at extraordinary low levels, if companies don’t step up their hiring activity – and obviously RPO can assist here – at least modestly, quality of work will suffer and top performers will jump ship to better opportunities on dry land.

Gary Bragar, Lead HRO Analyst, NelsonHall

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