Try It, Maybe Buy It

Reporting on what might seem obvious to many who follow the job market, New York Times reporter Motoko Rich reports that companies increasingly favor hiring contingent (temporary) workers in Weighing Costs, Companies Favor Temporary Help.

For example, Rich reports that:

This year, 26.2 percent of all jobs added by private sector employers were temporary positions.

Then puts this in perspective of hiring trends in previous recessions:

In the comparable period after the recession of the early 1990s, only 10.9 percent of the private sector jobs added were temporary, and after the downturn earlier this decade, just 7.1 percent were temporary.

Although these figures come from the U.S. labor market, they reflect trends in the Canadian market, too.

Rich cites a well-known economist, when writing that:

Temporary employees still make up a small fraction of total employees, but that segment has been rising steeply over the past year. “It hints at a structural change,” said Allen L. Sinai, chief global economist at the consulting firm Decision Economics. Temp workers “are becoming an ever more important part of what is going on,” he said.

From my personal perspective, this is the realization of a trend predicted back in the early 1990s, when futurists predicted that work would be organized around small, flexible teams that come together for a project, then disband and move onto new projects, often with different people and, perhaps, different organizations.

In such an economy, workers are hired for their skills, rather than for their seniority.  In theory this sounds good because it provides everyone with flexibility.  If an employer no longer needs a skill, employers can lay off workers with those skills.  And if workers finds better situations that more effectively (or rewardingly) use their skills, workers can easily transfer among jobs.

The broader implications of such a system have not been fully thought through, much less implemented.

But that’s beyond the scope of Rich’s article.  It focuses, instead, on the people affected by this hiring trend.   Check out the article at


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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