Temporary jobs becoming permanent part of American economy

Temporary worker
Jocelyn Taub, a job-hunting marketing professional, worked at a temp clerical job in a New York City office in 2008.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Temporary jobs are becoming the norm for many Americans.

From Wal-Mart to General Motors to PepsiCo, companies are increasingly turning to temps and to a much larger universe of freelancers, contract workers and consultants. Combined, these workers number nearly 17 million people who have only tenuous ties to the companies that pay them — about 12 percent of everyone with a job.

The number of temps has jumped more than 50 percent since the recession ended four years ago to nearly 2.7 million — the most on government records dating to 1990. In no other sector has hiring come close.

Driving the trend are lingering uncertainty about the economy and employers' desire for more flexibility in matching their payrolls to their revenue. Some employers have also sought to sidestep the new health care law's rules, which require that they provide medical coverage for permanent workers.

Temporary jobs worsen the country's income inequality, writes Michael Grabell for ProPublica. Temp workers earn, on average, 25 percent less than their permanent worker peers.

More from ProPublica:

"We're seeing just more and more industries using business models that attempt to change the employment relationship or obscure the employment relationship," said Mary Beth Maxwell, a top official in the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division. "While it's certainly not a new phenomenon, it's rapidly escalating. In the last 10 to 15 years, there's just a big shift to this for a lot more workers — which makes them a lot more vulnerable."

The temp system insulates the host companies from workers' compensation claims, unemployment taxes, union drives and the duty to ensure that their workers are citizens or legal immigrants. In turn, the temps suffer high injury rates, according to federal officials and academic studies, and many of them endure hours of unpaid waiting and face fees that depress their pay to less than minimum wage.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TEMP JOBS:

The American economy is eroding the American job
Hours decline, dragging take-home pay down with them. The identity of the boss becomes mystified, much to the boss's advantage. A government commitment to full employment, backed up by the public investment required to create it, would bolster not just the quantity but also the quality of our jobs. (Washington Post)

Why Temp Agencies Are Learning to Love the Affordable Care Act
Staffing companies like Robert Half International and On Assignment have seen their stock prices soar since President Obama's reelection in November, as the election made it nearly certain that the implementation of the law would continue as planned. "In general [Obamacare] is viewed as something that will lead to increases in the penetration rate of temporary workers," says Tobey Sommer, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. (Time)

Rebutting the Fact That Temp Work Is a Bad Thing
We are moving to a more "just in time" or free-agent workforce, but it isn't just the economy and business driving this. In our work with professionals and organizations nationally at Mom Corps, an increased preference for contract work, part-time gigs and even temporary roles is also being driven by professionals and job hunters. Leading talent and high-level project specialists are seeking out this type of work at greater numbers for all kinds of reasons. (Huffington Post)

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