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April, 1986, Vol. 109, No. 4
Employment growth in the
temporary help industry
Few industries have grown faster in recent years than the temporary help supply industry. Although still small in overall terms, with 735,000 workers representing less than one percent of total wage and salary employment in nonagricultural establishments in December 1985, the industry almost doubled in employment size in the 3 years since the trough of the recession in 1982 and accounted for 3 percent of the total job growth. Indications are that rapid growth of employment in the industry will continue through the mid-1990's.
As part of an ongoing Bureau of Labor Statistics study of the service-sector portion of the economy, this article documents the job gains recently experienced in the industry, and discusses reasons for the increase in demand for temporary workers and factors leading to the growth in supply of workers for temporary jobs. It also discusses differences in the occupational segments of the temporary help market. The article primarily uses data from the Current Employment Statistics survey and data from reports covered by unemployment insurance programs.1 It also is based on information obtained through interviews with temporary help supply firms and their customers.
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1 Wage and salary employment levels for 1978 through 1981 were obtained from State reports of establishments covered under State unemployment insurance laws. These reports cover about 98 percent of total civilian wage and salary employees on nonagricultural payrolls in the United States. Estimates of wage and salary employment for 1982-85 were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, which provides information from payroll records of employees based on a sample survey of establishments. Employment data from these two sources are basically comparable. In fact, the State reports of establishments covered under unemployment insurance laws are the primary sources of benchmark information for the Current Employment Statistics program. A description of the two sources appears in the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics publication, Employment and Earnings.
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