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March BLS Data Shows Temporary Employment Growth

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Temporary help services employment increased by 0.14 percent in March, adding 4,000 jobs during the month, according to seasonally adjusted data released last Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This contrasts with total nonfarm employment, which rose by 215,000 for the month, moderately outpacing consensus.

While revised data for January and February reflects temporary help employment losses that were 24,700 higher than previously reported, the monthly job gains in temporary help services averaged 4,600 over the past 12 months, with temporary employment seeing a 1.9 percent year-on-year increase. 

The unemployment rate was largely unchanged, moving from 4.9 to 5 percent, as the labor participation rate rose to 63 percent. This is the highest participation rate in two years and up from a low of 62.4 percent in September 2015.

“The employment numbers this month are fairly typical for what we would expect later in an economic cycle. Solid overall job growth and increased labor force participation is now being counterbalanced by weakness in the temporary employment market, which is a leading indicator for economic growth going forward,” said Barry Asin, President of SIA. “With the downward revision of the last several months of temporary employment data, January was one of the weakest we’ve seen for temporary employment since 2009.  During January we saw significant volatility and declines in the stock market which likely drove the decline in temporary employment that month. While it is a positive sign to see growth again in temporary employment in March, the relatively low level of growth highlights an economy showing signs of slower growth ahead.”

The temporary penetration rate remained relatively stable at 2.01 percent in March, having reached an all-time high of 2.06 percent in December 2015.

The construction sector had the strongest jobs growth for the month in percentage terms, and leads all sectors over the last 12 months with an increase of 4.7 percent. The retail trade, healthcare and leisure and hospitality sectors also continued to show healthy gains. Conversely, manufacturing had its largest monthly contraction in more than six years, and the mining sector continued to lose jobs in the face of declining energy prices.

SIA’s full April Jobs Report analysis is available for Corporate and CWS Council Members here.

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