New Hampshire staffing agencies are seeing a rise in the number of requests they’ve been receiving from businesses – a sign that employers are slowly making their way back toward hiring workers.According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the temporary help services sector added 47,000 jobs nationally in December. And since July, employment in the sector has increased by 166,000.According to data released by the New Hampshire Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau, New Hampshire gained 1,400 jobs in the Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services sector – which is largely composed of employment services – in December as compared to November.A December Manpower report found that 12 percent of Manchester and Nashua area companies surveyed said they plan to hire more employees – both temporary and permanent – in the first quarter of 2010.Barry Roy, regional vice president for recruitment firm Robert Half International’s Manchester office, said his firm is seeing an “uptick” in temporary hiring, both nationally and locally.“We’re seeing demand in accounting and financial sectors, financial analysts, as well as collections, customer service, business development and IT,” said Roy.Donna Longo, a staffing specialist with Manpower in Manchester, said temp hiring for health-care companies was “booming” in early and mid-January.“I’ve never seen it low, but health care is just skyrocketing right now,” she said.
According to Bernie Sparks, co-founder of Sparks Employment Group in Concord, his firm has not only seen an increase in requests for candidates in recent weeks, but a number of clients have signed up for the firm’s services, too.“They’re looking for temporary-to-permanent, actually,” he added, with the greatest demand from his firm in administrative workers, especially in payroll services.A recent search of the NH Job Works online job search engine found 51 temporary jobs and 106 contract positions – the overwhelming majority of which were technical positions – posted between Jan. 1 and Jan. 20.Companies look to temporary workers for several reasons, according to the temp firms.“In the market we’re in now, a lot of companies cut too deeply and need to bring in folks to keep projects going,” said Roy. “Often they see an uptick in business but are not sure where it’s going, so they hire temporary workers to keep up with demand.”Longo said there is a definite advantage in companies getting to “try before they buy.”“They get to see a candidate’s work ethic, their enthusiasm and drive,” she said.Temporary staffing rates are a good indicator of the economy, signifying a sort of midpoint phase of strength or weakness. When the economy is bad, temporary hiring begins to peak as companies are reluctant to deal with the expense of hiring permanent employees, and when the economy begins to improve, that hiring picks up again. Temp hiring also begins to slow when the economy is good, as businesses look to bring staff onboard full time.For instance, the economy was so bad last fall, a report from Web job search giant Monster.com found that the number of workers on temporary assignment dropped by 500,000 nationally over the past year to 1.74 million in September 2009, down from 2.26 million a year earlier.According to a recent press release from the American Staffing Association, a “sustained upturn” in temp hiring “would signal the end of the current recession and suggest that overall nonfarm employment would begin to grow about three months later.Whether we’re there yet or not, the staffing experts weren’t so sure, but they were optimistic.“Hopefully, by the end of Q1, we’ll see some strength in the market,” said Roy.Sparks was a little more cautious. “There’s still just too much uncertainty. Banks need to start lending to small businesses so they can create jobs,” he said. “I’m thinking that by summer, we’re going to be better. Not where we want to be, but better.”Much more optimistic was Longo of Manpower. “I have a great feeling about quarter 2,” she said. “I feel things will begin to pick up starting in March, and especially through June.”Cindy Kibbe can be reached at ckibbe@nhbr.com.