Evidence of upturn: Demand for temporary workers is strong

Tom Miller ticks off the requests that employers phoned in early last week to Applied Staffing Solutions, where Miller is director of staffing and recruiting services.

Twenty workers here. Another 18 in the next call. A dozen in the next call.

In fact, by mid-week, Applied Staffing had posted a jobs-available sign along the street outside its south-Reno office to recruit workers to fill the vacancies.

While the jobless rate in Reno, Sparks and Carson City remained stuck at about 11.7 percent during June, temporary employment agencies say their business has been booming since the start of the year.

And that may be good news for the future, as employers often begin adding temporary workers before they make the commitment to hire permanent staff.

Brian Lytle, vice president of the Spherion Staffing office in Reno, says his firm has seen consistent double-digit increases in its placements of temporary workers through the first seven months of 2012.

"It's fairly broad-based," Lytle says. Manufacturing companies in Carson City are adding temporary workers as they win more orders, and logistics companies in Reno are bringing on temporary staff to fill orders.

George Fincher, director of business operations in Nevada for Aerotek, another staffing agency, says the company's employee headcount in Reno currently is the highest it's been since the office opened.

Fincher says demand is coming across the board from industry, from companies that need clerical help, from mining-related companies.

Another indicator of economic recovery, Lytle says, is seen in the willingness of employers to move temporary workers into permanent positions fairly quickly.

"We rise with the tides," Lytle says.

But the tides sometimes are accompanied by waves of worry, says Miller.

"There's a shaky confidence at best among employers," he says. Their worries include the fallout from this year's presidential election as well as the possibility that the national economic recovery will slide back into recession.

Despite the region's high unemployment rate, temporary agencies sometimes are scrambling to fill positions especially positions that call for sophisticated manufacturing skills, such as machining or operation of computer-controlled cutting equipment.

About 26,300 people in the Reno-Sparks region were looking for work during June, estimates the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

But Miller notes that some of those workers don't have skills that match the needs of employers who are looking to fill temporary positions. Others can't pass drug tests or background checks. And some don't want to get back into the workforce until their unemployment benefits expire.

"The labor force is getting dry very quickly here," Miller says.

Susan Fix, assigned as a dedicated recruiter for Applied Staffing since the first of the year, is working her contacts through community groups, churches and other organizations to drum up potential workers for positions with the Reno-based company.

The trend doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

The third and fourth quarters of the year typically are busy for temporary staffing agencies in the area, Lytle says, as logistics companies gear up to handle holiday orders.

Aertek's Fincher notes, too, that increases in temporary employment may reflect some deeper trends in society.

Employers, he says, increasingly want a fluid workforce that can expand and contract easily.

Baby Boomers who are nearing the retirement age, meanwhile, are likely to turn to temporary employment as a way to supplement pensions and Social Security.

And young workers like the opportunity to try out a job through a temporary placement before they make a full-blown commitment, Fincher says.


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