Staffing firms see seeds of hiring recovery

More temps become permanent; but state slower to bounce back

NORTH BAY - Staffing agencies are reporting an uptick in temporary hiring throughout the North Bay, and those temporary jobs are increasingly becoming permanent, echoing a nationwide trend, according to human resources experts in the North Bay.

In a recent poll of staffing employees, the American Staffing Association said temporary jobs had helped them move into a permanent position, and a study by the University of Florida found that more than three-fourths of workers in temporary positions moved into permanent jobs. An additional 23 percent of respondents took on an additional temporary job.

[caption id="attachment_21155" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Nicole Smartt"][/caption]

“We’ve seen a substantial increase within the last few months with regard to our employees being hired permanently,” said Nicole Smartt, regional account director of Sonoma-based Star Staffing. “People are more willing to take a temporary position to help supplement their income while they look for a full-time job.”

Much of the staffing at Star, Ms. Smartt said, is within manufacturing and the wine industry, and those areas, particularly the wine industry, are gearing up for the summer season and expect an increase in available hours as orders come in.

“We hope this will continue to be the case,” she added.

Northern California’s largest human resources staffing company, the Nelson Family of Companies, said it was experiencing the same trend.

“We’re seeing that,” Nelson spokeswoman Courtney Dickson said. Yet whereas previous optimism had centered on the manufacturing sector, Ms. Dickson said upward projections are occurring within multiple areas. “We’re seeing kind of a mix of everything, which is great for us. A lot more temporary employees are going to hires because business is picking up.”

Her point was echoed by Nelson CEO and founder Gary Nelson as well as its Senior Vice President Tony Bartenetti.

“We are experiencing growth in all sectors, including administrative, accounting and IT,” Mr. Nelson said. “The growth is primarily contingent workers, but direct hire for customers is beginning to ramp as well,” Mr. Nelson said, adding that the increased demand is prevalent throughout most of Northern California, and Nelson’s increase in volume compared with this time last year is 40 percent.

“The temp-help recovery continues to be driven by light industrial and administrative staffing, yet the recovery seems to have broadened to include lower-end accounting, finance and IT staffing,” Mr. Nelson said, noting that such an indication is a positive development for both his company as well as the economy.

Ms. Dickson said the increase in hiring began slowly in late December of 2009, and it has trickled upward since January, traditionally a slower month for job expansion after the holiday season.

Currently, she said, “Companies are happier. They had a hard time making ends meet but things are picking up.” The transition of temporary workers to permanent positions stems from employers having to operate with minimal resources throughout the recession, she said.

“They’re tired of struggling without the proper resources,” she said.

David Ohman, branch manager of Manpower Sonoma County, said the hiring of previously temporary employees, who typically are temporary for 90 days before being hired, is beneficial for a company as it prepares for an increase in business.

“Employers benefit by being able to keep trained, knowledgeable employees that have been vetted through the temp-to-hire process,” he said.

Mr. Ohman and Ms. Dickson both said that while employment is less bleak than it was, California is not seeing the recovery as quickly as other parts of the country.

“There is an uptick in California,” Ms. Dickson said, but added, “For the most part I think California is slower to recover because so many companies moved their manufacturing plants and headquarters out of California due to cost savings that can be found in other states.”

Added Mr. Ohman, “I am hearing from our management that we are seeing improving numbers on the temporary and permanent side, but that it’s not as strong of an improvement on the West Coast.”

Mr. Bartenetti of Nelson said temp workers began getting hired permanently around early February, and that has continued. He added that the bulk of the seasonal work, particularly in the North Bay, has yet to really begin.

“We’ll really see an increase then,” Mr. Bartenetti said, noting that the trend is similar to that of the rest of the Bay Area.

“What we’re seeing now isn’t the seasonal work. That will come in June. In the North Bay, we’ll start getting crazy in September, maybe the end of August. We’ll see things really start to go,” he added.

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, a nationwide firm that tracks hiring trends and just issued its Labor Market Outlook for the second quarter of 2010, 15 percent of responding companies said they planned to increase their contracts for temporary staff.

The report describes temporary and contract hiring as “an early indicator of an economic recovery.”

Additionally, 24 percent of the responding companies said hiring was planned for the second quarter, compared with 18 percent in the same period in 2009.

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