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US temp jobs rise by 26,500; temp penetration rate up

March 09, 2018

The US gained 26,500 temporary help services jobs February, a year-over-year increase of 4.15%, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The temp penetration rate — temporary jobs as a percent of total employment — rose to 2.04% in February from 2.03% in January.

Total nonfarm jobs rose by 313,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in February. The US unemployment rate remained 4.1% in February. The college-level unemployment rate — which can serve as a proxy for professional employment — rose to 2.3% from 2.1% in January.

“The February jobs report contained a triple portion of good news for the staffing industry,” said Timothy Landhuis, senior research manager at Staffing Industry Analysts. “Not only were there 313,000 non-farm jobs added to the economy and 26,500 jobs added to the temporary staffing industry, but also the labor force increased by 806,000 individuals, keeping the unemployment rate at 4.1%, a positive for the many staffing firms that are operating in a supply-constrained environment.”

In the past couple of months, a gap has opened between softening hard data and still very strong confidence measures, which made it hard to assess the state of the economy, according to Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, at The Conference Board.

“Today’s employment numbers strengthen the view that the US economy is still on a strong growth trajectory,” Levanon said in a statement. “These numbers also make it clear that employment growth did significantly accelerate in response to the improvement in the overall economy during 2017. Employment growth was especially strong in the goods-producing sector, where 254,000 jobs were added in the past three months, more than in any other three-month period since 1984.”

Despite the strong employment growth, the unemployment rate did not decline, Levanon noted. However, with employment growing more than twice the rate needed to keep the unemployment rate stable, further decline in the unemployment rate is all but guaranteed.

In a comment on the jobs report, Randstad Sourceright’s Rebecca Henderson noted the unemployment rate for women has reached record-breaking lows, but said more needs to be done to remove barriers.

Thursday was International Women’s Day, but Henderson cited US Labor Department data that showed women who worked full-time on average had median weekly earnings that were 82% of their male counterparts. In addition, female executives still only fill approximately 20% of C-suite positions nationwide.

“Our recent survey found that 53% of employers recognize the significant benefits of having more women in leadership positions, and are implementing diversity initiatives that improve hiring strategies and close the gender gap,” Henderson said. “On the heels of International Women’s Day, US employers should continue to prioritize these efforts and press for sustained change.”  

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