Jim Greene the renovation worker found he wasn't much in demand last year, but there were plenty of jobs for Jim Greene the temporary worker.
The economy was sinking and so was Greene's home improvement business when a neighbor turned him on to a staffing agency that helps place temps.
"With the economy the way it was, I figured I better at least get a steady job with some steady income coming in," recalled Greene, 45.
An agency found him a job at BDS Port-Services LLC, which unloads tractors from ships, assembles them and loads them onto tractor-trailers. Today, Greene oversees everything done at the shipyard for BDS, from mechanical work in the shop to loading trucks with the shiny yellow, orange and red tractors that line the yard -- and he does it all as a temp worker.
As millions of Americans search for jobs in the weak economy, one way growing numbers are finding work is through a temp agency.
In good times, temp employment offers workers flexibility, freedom and variety. In bad times, they offer income but no long-term security and variable benefits.
"Companies prefer flexible labor where they can bring on staff for projects or to meet peak demand when they need to, rather than bring on the staff and be faced with a short haul in demand," said Steve Berchem, vice president of the American Staffing Association.
For some workers, a temp job can become a working interview.Carmen Lienert had spent about six weeks scouring the papers for a job, only to come up empty-handed, when she turned to Nancy Adams Personnel as a last resort."A lot of the time, the same day the ad was in the paper they had already filled the position," Lienert said. "So it was hard. And I was becoming desperate for a job."Tim Fisher, the company's owner, helped Lienert with her resume, coached her on how to interview and found her a temp job as a receptionist at CRC-Salomon, a court reporting firm in Timonium.After a month of temping, Lienert became a permanent employee of CRC-Salomon. Temping, she said, was one of the best ways to find a job in the sour economy."It is advantageous because you're on the inside of the company interacting with people who can make decisions about keeping someone or creating a position or replacing someone," Fisher said.Historical data shows a surge in the temp industry can be a leading indicator for an uptick in the economy, said Todd Crannell, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's because the rise of the temporary work force comes as companies see a swell in business but are reluctant to hire permanent employees without evidence that demand won't deflate again.
"Companies are not quite sure whether the demand is real or sustainable," Joerres said. "They also need the skill quickly, and therefore its easier to place a call to get the skill in a day or a week then it is to go through the hiring process when they're not even sure how sustainable it will be."Joerres and executives from staffing agencies in the region said clients want temporary employees because the workers come at a fixed cost and the company doesn't have to worry about expenses such as medical benefits or workmen's compensation. Also, the company doesn't have to go through the paperwork of putting the temp worker on its payroll, and it can fire the worker without the burden of unemployment and other fees if there isn't enough work because of the economy.Some employees want to keep their temp jobs temporary. They like the idea of being able to try their hand at a variety of different professions or they find the benefits outweigh those of a permanent job.Greene turned down a permanent job at BDS Port-Services because the pay was about $1 an hour less than what the temp agency was paying him. However, he expects to be hired permanently by BDS in the coming months.Dean McDermott, 47, was working in the Maryland crabbing industry when he decided to look for a permanent position in October 2000. He called Randstad, the temp agency that placed Greene, and they helped him land a temporary job at an import and export company in Dundalk.
After more than three years, he is a manager at that company. Randstad covers his benefits, paid vacations, medical and dental coverage, educational training and a 401(k). The perks are so good that when his employer offered him a permanent position, McDermott turned it down because the benefits didn't top those he gets through Randstad.Plus, in a teetering economy, McDermott said he doesn't have to worry about job stability with a temp job."Regular companies have layoffs every day," he said. "With Randstad, if an assignment ends, there's another assignment waiting."The variety of jobs available is what draws T.J. Johnson to temp work. He has worked temp jobs in mailrooms, warehouses and printing companies. Now, Johnson, 51, temps for Greene as a shop helper at BDS Port-Services."I feel I have more control over my time factor," Johnson said. "I can determine how I want to work, how many days a week, and there's a little bit more flexibility." 2003, The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.