December 21, 2010
Despite the short-term surge in hiring businesses have shown lately, full-time positions are still scarce and temporary work is becoming an increasingly integral part of the American workforce.
Many employers are reluctant to make full-time offers to workers, raising concerns among employees and labor experts that temporary jobs will continue to play a larger role in the recovering economy, The New York Times reported. In an already competitive job market, temporary employees are at a disadvantage, often denied benefits and the security of a permanent job.
"We're in a period where uncertainty seems to be going on forever," said David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "So this period of temporary employment seems to be going on forever."
In November, temporary workers accounted for 80 percent of the 50,000 jobs added by the private sector, according to the Labor Department. Since the beginning of the year, temporary employees have made up more than a quarter of the 1.17 million private sector jobs added in total.
Jeffrey Rodeo, who was laid off 14 months ago from his job as an accounting manager at a produce company in Sacramento, California, is one worker who has been forced to accept temporary employment. He has applied to nearly 700 full-time positions since then, but has not received an offer.
"Companies are being more careful," he said. "It just may take longer to secure a permanent position."
Some economists, however, believe this fear of a growing temporary workforce is overblown.
"Even looking beyond the severity of temporary worker layoffs compared to that of permanent workers, it makes theoretical sense that this labor market recovery has been dominated by temporary hires," Daniel Indiviglio wrote in his blog for The Atlantic. "The recession was so long and so deep, and the recovery so fragile, that firms are being extra cautious when hiring back permanent staff."
According to NPR, some American workers actually prefer temporary to full-time gigs, citing greater flexibility as one of the main reasons. Temporary employees surveyed by NPR responded that they enjoyed their work schedules, opportunities for travel and chances to select employers rather than the other way around.
Penelope Trunk, one of the temporary employees surveyed, said that workers no longer need to climb the corporate ladder to develop valuable skills. Rather, people nowadays can take responsibility for their own professional growth and the direction of their career path, she said. In addition, temping allows individuals more time to pursue their own endeavors.
"Ninety percent of Generation Y says they want to be entrepreneurs," she said. "A temp job is a great way to get more money when you need it while you are doing something else--starting a business, writing a book, traveling the world--with more focus than that temp job."
Compiled by Alexander Gong
"A Temporary Solution for A New American Worker," npr.org, December 14, 2010, Linton Weeks
"Should the Rise in Temporary Workers Scare Us?" theatlantic.com, December 20, 2010, Daniel Indiviglio
"Weighing Costs, Companies Favor Temporary Help," nytimes.com, December 19, 2010, Motoko Rich