'Sourcing talent has become much more of a science'

CEO of the American Staffing Association reports companies are turning to temporary and contract workers while contending with tight labor market

'Sourcing talent has become much more of a science'

With millions of employees quitting their jobs during the Great Resignation, companies are relying upon alternative methods to fill positions and serve their customers.

Throughout the United States, staffing firms are answering the call, supplying temporary and contract workers during this tight labor market. Staffing companies employed an average of 2.7 million temporary and contract workers per week in the third quarter of 2021, according to recent data by the American Staffing Association (ASA) in Alexandria, VA.

That’s up 3.5% over the second quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, staffing sales grew 3.1% in Q3, ASA reported.

“US businesses are turning to the staffing industry for help in filling millions of current job openings,” Richard Wahlquist, president and CEO of ASA, told HRD. “The staffing industry is playing an increasingly important role in today’s labor market by providing talent sourcing expertise and workforce flexibility to employers in need of workers, and helping candidates find roles that are the right fit.”

Staffing jobs rose 15.2% in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, which was still early in the economy’s recovery from the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Temporary and contract staffing sales totaled $36.1 billion in the third quarter of 2021, an increase of 21.8% from the third quarter of 2020, ASA reported.

As for the fourth quarter of 2021, staffing firms remain optimistic, projecting their revenue to grow 9% year to year. If this month is any indication, those high hopes are warranted. Staffing employment for the week of Dec. 6–12 edged up 0.7% from the previous week, an increase of 18.3% compared to the same week in 2020, ASA reported.

This marks the 13th consecutive week in which the ASA Staffing Index – a barometer of temporary and contract worker employment – has measured 100 or greater, an achievement that has occurred only once before in 2014. Temporary and contract staffing employment for the four weeks ending Dec. 12 was 19.5% higher than the same period in 2020. “Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, staffing employment in recent weeks has held strong at record levels,” said Scott Vanderbilt, senior director of research at ASA.

Read more: Kellogg’s workers end strike after nearly 3 months

Additionally, staffing companies anticipate an increase of 19% for the full year of 2021 compared with 2020, ASA reported.

“With more job openings than we have eligible people for, the services of HR professionals have never been in higher demand,” Wahlquist says. “Sourcing talent has become much more of a science. Companies have begun to look at optimization of talent, making sure people are utilized to the best of their ability.”

Recruitment and retention have been top priorities of HR departments across every industry, as record-levels of Americans are leaving their jobs. Some 4.2 million workers quit in October, according to the Department of Labor. That follows a record high of 4.4 million quitting in September (3% of the United States workforce) and 4.27 million quitting in August. Essential workers, in particular, have been leaving their positions for greener pastures. After experiencing the trauma of the coronavirus outbreak, employees are demanding more money, better benefits and increased mobility.

“Businesses are having to use staff augmentation more strategically, focusing on both their core workforce as well as their extended workforce,” Wahlquist says. “Companies are now planning and budgeting for outside staffing for as long as this ‘great disengagement’ continues.”

To combat the nationwide worker shortage, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced earlier this week that President Joe Biden will allow an additional 20,000 seasonal, guest-worker visas available for winter. DHS previously increased the number of available visas for the summer season, which is among the busiest for bringing in workers, CNN reported. The 20,000 new visas are in addition to the 33,000 visas made available for people employed the first half of the fiscal year, October 1 to March 31.

The H-2B visa allows employers to bring foreign workers to the US for temporary non-agricultural jobs, such as landscaping, hospitality and other industries. DHS will also carve out 6,500 visas for people from Haiti and the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, to provide a legal pathway to the US.

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