For 22-year-old Laura Grenier, finding a permanent job just out of school was a tough task to tackle. Despite applying for more than 40 gigs, pinning down a full-time job in human relations was like trying to find a unicorn. So she changed her approach, searching instead for temporary or temporary-to-permanent jobs – and the sociology and psychology major from Bridgeport landed a spot the day after graduation.
Between 2009 and 2013, the number of temporary jobs available in Fairfield County has grown by 58 percent, according to research published by Economic Modeling Specialists International, a company that analyzes labor market data. With 2,105 new temporary jobs out of the 7,272 total positions created being labeled as temporary, 29 percent of the region’s new jobs fall into that category. That’s double the national average, and enough to rank Southwestern Connecticut in the top third of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the nation for share of temporary jobs.
“Ideally, I would have liked to have taken a permanent job, but the market is tough,” said Grenier, who is about a month into her position at a company in Norwalk, after finding the post through the local temp agency McIntyre Group.
“Temporary was fine – anything to get experience on my resume,” she said. “I talked to a few people at McIntyre about opportunities that involved temp-to-perm, because it seemed like a great way to get my foot in the door.”
She is hoping the job turns into a permanent spot for her, something she will find out before she hits her three-month mark with the company. But if it doesn’t, Grenier said she will continue to search for another role and may even try temping again. After all, she might have to.
“We’ve had consistent growth over the last year or so,” said Melissa Mongillo, director of temporary services at McIntyre Group, who attributes much of the increase in temporary jobs to companies “preparing for changes” in healthcare plans and policies.
“I think companies are trying to eliminate fulltime roles to potentially defray the cost of benefits,” she said. As a result, she sees many local companies “cutting back on headcount.”
Currently, McIntyre Group has about somewhere in the range of 600 to 700 temps on its payroll, after slow and steady increases dating back to the market crash five years ago. And that’s just one temp agency in an area that’s seeing an increased demand for short-term employees.
Nationally, more than 765,000 temporary jobs have been added to the economy since 2009, according to EMSI, accounting for roughly 15 percent of all job growth over the past four years. And EMSI editor and author of the company’s recent report Joshua Wright says it’s a phenomenon that could become problematic for our nation.
“The big takeaway is that because temporary help is so low-paying, it doesn’t bode well for most of these economies that are seeing a large percentage of their growth in temporary help,” Wright said.
The Stamford-Bridgeport metro area’s average earnings for temporary workers is the fifth highest in the nation at $50,350 a year, according to Wright. But that’s still just a fraction of what permanent workers in the area make.
The most common temporary job in Fairfield County is laborers, a job that has grown from 442 positions in 2009 to 670 in 2013, for a 52 percent change in the total stock of workers, who make an median wage of $13.86 an hour. Several other low-paying jobs rank in the top five most common temp jobs in this area, before human resources officer – the position held by Grenier – appears on the list at No. 9. Workers in her profession have seen a 78 percent increase in the number of temporary jobs available since 2009, climbing up to 123 positions, where they earn a median hourly wage of $33.46
Fairfield County isn’t the only part of Connecticut seeing big gains in the share of new jobs that are temporary. According to data from EMSI, 40 percent of jobs created in the Milford-New Haven between 2009 and 2013 area have been temp positions, giving the area the 18th largest share of the metropolitan areas analyzed. And the Hartford market has seen a 58 percent increase, with temp jobs growing by 2,577 positions as total jobs grew by 4,445 positions; the city and its surrounding suburbs have the 11th highest share in the nation.
But Nutmeg cities have nothing on places like Stockton, California, where permanent job numbers have increased as temporary jobs increased. According to EMSI, there was a net gain of 40 jobs in the metro area in the time period analyzed, with temporary jobs growing by 1,604 positions. That brings the share of new temporary jobs in at 4010 percent of the total market. And it’s just one of four metro areas where the losses in permanent jobs have been turned into net gains thanks to a high number of new temp positions: Scranton, Pennsylvania, Dayton, Ohio and Memphis, Tennessee are in the same boat.
“It’s very clear that there’s no sector of the economy growing as strongly right now as temporary help,” said Wright, who added that he expects to see the trend continue on its trajectory in coming years.
As for Grenier, she said she’s willing to try a few times to make sure she can find a permanent job, adding experience to her resume along the way.
“You can’t say no to a job, especially when it’s a job you want,” she said.