March 9, 2014
For the past few years, the annual American Staffing Association convention has focused on recruiting and retaining talent. With staffing companies enjoying steady growth, their main concern was finding enough qualified workers to fill all the orders for contract and contingent workers.
The 2008 convention, however, reflects a shift in the market, as a slumping economy cuts into demand for temporary and contract help. Convention-goers in October will still hear a lot about recruiting talent, but they will also see more than the usual number of workshops focusing on sales and marketing, and how to land and retain staffing contracts.
"As unemployment edged up a little bit, the bench of talent has grown a little deeper, so companies are shifting focus to sales and market differentiation," says Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of the American Staffing Association. "Clearly, in a slowing economy, part of the strategy is growing market share."
So far, the overall staffing industry has avoided the serious setbacks affecting the national economy. Sales by staffing companies in the U.S. reached an all-time high of $73.5 billion in 2007, a 1.6 percent increase over 2006, according to ASA statistics. But the number of workers employed by staffing companies remained flat, at about 2.96 million workers per day. Wahlquist says the ASA expects 2008 to be another flat year for staffing.
Barry Asin, chief analyst with Staffing Industry Analysts, also projects little or no growth for staffing, although he cautions that the worsening national economic picture in the first quarter of 2008 may result in slower hiring of temporary and contract workers later in the year. He also noted that different sectors within the staffing industry are seeing differing results.
"It is like a tale of two cities," Asin says. "We see significantly slower growth and more of a decline in the commercial side of things. But the professional side is doing a little better." The biggest losses are coming in office and industrial temporary work, while demand for contract engineers, health care workers and technology specialists remains fairly strong.
With a little luck, the ups and down could balance out for the industry in 2008. "It won't be the sort of year where people will be singing hallelujah, but they should have a decent year," Asin says.
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