July 7, 2013

For the ‘Where Have You Been?’ File: AP’s Rugaber Discovers Temporary Hiring ‘Is Exploding’

In a Sunday morning story which will likely have limited reach, and will then probably be considered old news by the time the business week resumes tomorrow, the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, finally got around to recognizing a trend on which yours truly and others have been commenting for at least 2-1/2 years: the surge in employment at temporary help services.

That the item’s author is Christopher “Gone Are the Fears That the Economy Could Fall Into Another Recession” Rugaber makes it especially rich, once he explains to his readers some of the reasons why temp services is one of the few sectors employing more people now than it did at its pre-recession peak (bolds are mine):


From Wal-Mart to General Motors to PepsiCo, companies are increasingly turning to temps and to a much larger universe of freelancers, contract workers and consultants. Combined, these workers number nearly 17 million people who have only tenuous ties to the companies that pay them – about 12 percent of everyone with a job.

Hiring is always healthy for an economy. Yet the rise in temp and contract work shows that many employers aren’t willing to hire for the long run.

Uh, Chris, that’s because they don’t have any confidence in the long run.

In fact, Rugaber found someone to admit — perhaps so he didn’t have to do so himself — that employers are afraid, of all things, of a “downturn”:

The number of temps has jumped more than 50 percent since the recession ended four years ago to nearly 2.7 million – the most on government records dating to 1990. In no other sector has hiring come close.

Driving the trend are lingering uncertainty about the economy and employers’ desire for more flexibility in matching their payrolls to their revenue. Some employers have also sought to sidestep the new health care law’s rule that they provide medical coverage for permanent workers.

The trend towards temp hiring has been quite visible for over 2-1/2 years, yet AP reporters until very, very recently never said a word about ObamaCare’s impact on this growth, or its contribution to the related trend towards putting more part-time people on the payroll instead of hiring full-timers.

Continuing, the irony gets deeper:

The trend toward contract workers was intensified by the depth of the recession and the tepid pace of the recovery. A heavy investment in long-term employment isn’t a cost all companies want to bear anymore.

Susan Houseman, an economist at the Upjohn Institute of Employment Research, says companies want to avoid having too many employees during a downturn, just as manufacturers want to avoid having too much inventory if demand slows.

Didn’t the AP just tell us that Friday’s jobs report was proof that “U.S. employers are sending a message of confidence in the economy”?

Why, yes — and it was Rugaber himself who did that.

The truth is that the June jobs report showed that they were soooooo NOT confident that on a seasonally adjusted basis they kept on hiring temps (another 9,500) and made a very visible move towards hiring more part-timers — an additional 360,000, according to the report’s Household Survey — while shedding 240,000 full-timers.

For those who object that June might have been an outlier, try this: This year, that same Household Survey says that the economy has added only 130,000 full-time jobs — less than 22,000 per month.

And if the fears of a recession are “gone,” as Rugaber claimed three months ago, why are employers worrying about “having too many employees during a downturn”? Rugaber’s no-recession take is especially offensive, given how often AP reporters cited “recession fears” in 2003, 2005, and 2006, when the economy was growing at a much faster rate than we’ve seen during the previous three quarters (assuming the second quarter comes in at about the current consensus estimate of 1.6 percent to 1.7 percent).

One longs for the day when AP reporters concentrate on reporting as full a set of facts as they can in the space available and leave any analysis to quoted experts who actually know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, I can assure readers that such a blessed day won’t be arriving any time soon.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


1 Comment

  1. That Tom should be a chart prominently displayed and updated every month:

    A 4 line graph with Total Employment vs Permanent vs Temp vs Part Time from 2007 to present just to put the screws to the MSM and especially the AP.

    A good caption would be: Is the country doing better now than in 2009?

    Comment by dscott — July 9, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

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