VOL. 118 | NO. 212 | Monday, November 22, 2004
Temp Market Grows With Regional Economy
The Daily News
News about Memphis ongoing market for temporary workers has
traveled so far that an intern for a Comedy Central television show recently called
the Memphis Regional Chamber to ask about it.
Larry Henson, vice president of research and information
technology for the chamber, said the cable station was producing a show about
nighttime workers, and the intern wanted to know if Henson could add some
information from a local perspective.
Government statistics on the citys temporary employment
market are incomplete, Henson said, in part because of the way workers are
classified. Companies often report their number of full-time equivalent
workers based on the number of hours worked, not by the literal number of
employees, he said.
King of part-time. But
the citys status as a distribution hub also makes it a hub for temporary and
seasonal workers, an employment sector that has seen recent growth as the
nations economy shows cautious signs of improvement.
As Henson told the Comedy Central caller: Memphis is the
king of night-time and part-time work.
Joel Myers, principal at The Centre Group, said many local
companies are currently using temporary workers to make up between 30 percent
and 50 percent of their staff. Henson believes the nature of distribution
operations in Memphis is a driving force behind the trend, pointing to the
thousands of part-time workers attracted to jobs at FedEx alone. That doesnt come
as a surprise, as 2003 figures from the Tennessee Department of Labor and
Workforce Development show that the distribution sector employs the largest
percentage of Shelby Countys work force.
Its pretty phenomenal, Henson said, FedEx is the
all-time king of part-time people, but thats just a function of the window
Rapid growth. Because
much of the information about the citys temporary job market is anecdotal
and because Memphis is such a massive distribution hub there are varying views
on the trend. Several analysts, including Henson and Dr. John Gnuschke,
director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the
University of Memphis, said evidence indicates that Memphis
temporary job market is growing rapidly.
Gnuschke, in particular, believes the markets growth
reflects the general resurgence taking place in the local and national economy.
And with the holiday season fast approaching, Henson said local employers are
currently bringing on a new flood of temporary workers.
We have kind of an extra component to our seasonal holiday
rush and crunch for temporary employment over and above what most cities would
experience, Henson said. And we have some pretty unique companies in terms of
seasonality and temporary situations in logistics. Companies like (gift wrap
manufacturer) Cleo are very seasonal, and FedEx has a surge because of
Williams-Sonoma has a very high peak because of Christmas,
and theyre here because of FedEx and because of our logistics advantages.
Holiday surge. And Myers
said the presence of a large number of catalog and mail-order operations adds
to that holiday surge in temporary employment. Williams-Sonoma, he explained,
will probably double its work force during the holidays and add a large number
of temporary workers to deal with catalog orders.
On a national level, the trend is much the same temporary
workers are becoming increasingly attractive to employers looking for more effective
ways to manage their operations. According to the National Association of
Temporary and Staffing Services, 2.5 million temporary and contract workers
were employed each day in second quarter 2004, up almost 16 percent from the
same period last year. Second quarter sales from temporary help topped $15.8
billion in the quarter, up almost 14 percent from the same period in 2003.
Cautious expansion. Gnuschke
said employers are weathering the hesitant economic resurgence by slowly adding
temporary workers to their staffs.
As the economy has expanded, I think the temporary employee
market has expanded, and thats because employers have been really apprehensive
about taking on permanent, full-time employees given kind of the uncertainty of
this recovery, he said.
Henson said companies are turning to temporary workers for
flexibility, because many just dont need a large number of full-time
employees. But with the future of TennCare hanging in
the balance, Gnuschke pointed to an offshoot of the trend that could spell
trouble for those workers an increased demand for social services.
Few temporary employees are provided any kind of fringe
benefits like health insurance, and consequently, they fall into the public
arena and increase the cost of TennCare, Gnuschke said.
Broad impact. In the meantime,
analysts said the large pool of temporary workers in Memphis will remain a
powerful force in the local economy.
The use of (temporary workers) is a good idea on the part
of employers who are seeking to minimize labor costs and, in some cases, maximize
profits, Gnuschke said. In the short run, and I think many employers think in
the short run, temporary employees provide employers a great service.