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US jobs report ‘tepid,’ but temp penetration rate holds at record high

January 05, 2018

December’s temp penetration rate for the US held at a record high 2.10%, unchanged from November, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. But both temporary help jobs and total US jobs posted smaller gains in December than November.

“The BLS employment report for December was generally tepid, capping an otherwise strong year in which temporary staffing added jobs every month,” said Tony Gregoire, director of research, the Americas, at Staffing Industry Analysts.

Temporary help jobs rose by 7,000 in December, down from a downwardly revised increase of 16,900 in November. Total nonfarm jobs rose by 148,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in December, down from an upwardly revised increase of 252,000 in November.

The US unemployment rate remained 4.1% in December. The college-level unemployment rate — which can serve as a proxy for professional employment — remained at 2.1%.

December’s job growth came well below expectations, according to Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, at The Conference Board. Still, the overall labor market picture is brighter than this month’s figure suggests and the underlying story is of a US economy that has been significantly accelerating in recent quarters, which is leading to solid job growth.

“This strong momentum may even get stronger as we move into 2018,” Levanon said in a statement. “Tax cuts passed by Congress will provide an additional boost to the US economy. We expect robust job growth to continue in the coming months. As a result, the US labor market is likely to tighten further during 2018. The main challenge for business in 2018 will be to meet rapid growth in demand in an environment where workers are harder to find.”

Randstad Sourceright CEO Rebecca Henderson said December’s somewhat lower-than-projected jobs report demonstrates the significant hiring challenges employers face during a tight labor market. With unemployment rates reaching record lows, many companies turned to the growing gig economy to fill a range of critical positions typically held by permanent staff to meet their demanding holiday hiring needs.

“But businesses are not planning to limit this hiring strategy to the holiday season,” Henderson said in a statement. “As unemployment continues to decline in 2018, more companies will shift their overall workforce from permanent, full-time positions to contingent workers to improve their overall agility and meet their immediate and future hiring needs.”

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