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University Study Says Temps Not Trapped

December 22, 2009
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Temporary workers employed through agencies earn higher hourly wages, are better educated than traditionally employed workers and move quickly between temporary and traditional jobs, according to a study announced Monday, December 21, by the University of Florida.

“There has been concern by some advocacy groups that the temporary help industry is creating an entire class of people who are churning through temporary help jobs and can’t escape from that cycle,” Sarah Hamersma, University of Florida economist and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “We find no reason to believe that a large number of temp workers are ‘stuck’ in a secondary labor market.”

Hamersma and Carolyn Heinrich, a University of Wisconsin public affairs professor, studied occupational records, wages and earnings for 5,877 Wisconsin workers between 1995 and 2004.

Of 3,964 employees who held at least one temporary job, 3,947 held a permanent job at some time in those 10 years, according to Hamersma. In an analysis of a subsample over a four-month period, three-fourths of those in temporary jobs moved into traditional jobs and only 23 percent took another temporary job.

Temporary employees received about 15 percent more in pay per hour than traditional employees, according to Hamersma. However, quarterly earnings tend to be lower for temporary workers.

“We learned that the shorter duration of temporary jobs means the employees work fewer hours, which translates into lower quarterly earnings than for traditional employees, but they actually end up getting paid more for the hours that they do work,” Hamersma said.

The findings in the study were presented in November at the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management in Washington.

Filed by Staffing Industry Analysts, a sister company of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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