For Many Americans, ‘Temp’ Work Becomes Permanent Way of Life
For Americans who can’t find jobs, the booming demand for temp workers has been a path out of unemployment, but now many fear it’s a dead-end route.
With full-time work hard to find, these workers have built temping into a de facto career, minus vacation, sick days or insurance. The assignments might be temporary — a few months here, a year there — but labor economists warn that companies’ growing hunger for a workforce they can switch on and off could do permanent damage to these workers’ career trajectories and retirement plans.
Economists say it’s typical for temporary hiring to rise initially as the economy recovers, before businesses are ready to commit to hiring full-time employees. But Susan Houseman, senior economist at Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said the current pattern doesn’t fit historic norms.
“Right now we’re seeing something interesting,” she said. “We’ve seen it surpass its previous highs, so it looks like there could be a structural shift going on, too. There’s a reason to believe we might see some increase in the use of temporary help in general.”