How Temp Workers Are Padding the Country’s Unemployment Rate

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Roughly 2.8 million temporary jobs are propping up the U.S. economy and constituting 2% of total employment, according to a report.

The National Employment Law Project found that temporary help agencies, staffing agencies, professional employer organizations and employment placement agencies fill 2.5% of all jobs, up from 1.4% in 1990. More than 12 million workers moved in and out of staffing agencies in 2013 alone.

While the Department of Labor notes that the unemployment rate dropped from 7.2% in August 2013 to 6.1% last month, the percentage of temporary labor currently in the workforce underscores some of the reasons Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, among others, view that percentage with caution. About 92.3 million U.S. citizens were out of the workforce in August, up from 90.5 a year ago. Meanwhile, the 6.3 million Americans looking for a job is actually up from 6.2 million a year ago.

Increasingly, those temp jobs aren't just clerical positions or seasonal and holiday help. In 2013, material-moving workers made up nearly 20% of all temporary workers. Assemblers and fabricators constituted another 9%, while construction trades workers were 3%. Altogether, workers in the industrial and manufacturing sector accounted for 42% of all temp work in 2013. Administrative assistants, clerks, computer workers and other office workers accounted for just 21%.

Roughly 77% of all Fortune 500 companies use temporary workers of some kind. Waste Management employs them for waste removal, recycling and other tasks. Philips Norelco uses them to package razors. Doubletree Hotels rely on them to clean rooms. Dunkin' Donuts and Pizza Hut use them to fill orders and Costco and Wal-Mart employ them to make frozen pizzas. They're an efficient way to fill positions and complete tasks, but they're also employed at a discount.

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