In a signal that the job market may be inching toward recovery, employment by temporary staffing firms has risen for the past several months.
"That's a sign that business owners are facing more demand and more need for work, yet they are very thinly staffed because of the recession," says John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.
The increase in temporary hiring is often a first sign of a job market recovery.
Signs of Hope
"It's a leading indicator for employment," says Scott Wintrip, founder and president of StaffingU.net, which provides training, coaching, and consulting for staffing and recruiting firms. "This recession hit very deep and very hard. I think employers will be even more reluctant to hire full-time people right away, but the work still needs to get done."
This is good news for workers, even those who are looking for full-time work. As employers become convinced that the turnaround will last, they will convert some of the temporary workers to regular full-time workers.
There are several reasons for unemployed workers to consider temporary work:
* Just as employers use temporary assignments to test out workers before making a commitment, workers can check out employers. If the temporary job could lead to a full-time job, you get to see if it's a good fit before making a long-term commitment.
* If you work at several different temporary jobs, you can learn about different types of companies.
* Simply working can provide both a psychological and a financial boost when you're unemployed.
* Employers may view someone who is working, even if it's at a temporary job, as a more desirable candidate than one who is not. This is not always true -- there are ways to handle your unemployment to make it less of a red flag for hiring managers. But in many cases it sounds better to be able to say you're working.
* The staffing firms that place you in temporary positions may also fill regular, fulltime jobs. Having them know you and your abilities can help your job search.
Temporary jobs, therefore, can be "a bridge to full-time employment," Wintrip says.
There are, of course, also some disadvantages to temp work: Short-term work can be sporadic, so you may need to register with more than one agency to keep yourself busy. And depending on the particular job and company, you may not feel like you're truly part of the team.
It's also true that the more time you spend working at a temporary job, the less time you have to focus on your job search. Still, for many unemployed workers, the advantages of temporary work can outweigh the disadvantages.
What's the best way to find a temporary job? Talk to staffing firms that specialize in your field -- there are many niche firms that fill positions in particular industries or positions. It's best to work with an agency that knows your field and your local job market.
It's also important to "remain open to what employers are willing to offer you," Challenger says. "In better times you might not take that temporary job if it was offered to you, but today, given the fragility of the economy, be open to that possibility."