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Temps Power Altered Workforce

The tectonic plates of the North American workforce have shifted dramatically in the last several years, and the new landscape tells a story of guardedly optimistic employers who are letting out the seams gradually by focusing on temporary hires in their expanding efforts.

The latest figures out of the American government report that temporary help added 14,100 jobs to that economy last month.

It was a result that was stronger than had been expected, and analysts are increasingly mindful of the role that contract, or project-based, workers have to play in powering large-scale labour market growth. The temp penetration rate — or the percentage of temporary workers in the labour force — is higher today than it’s been in more than five years.

What’s more, experts predict that the number of temporary workers participating in the labour force will swell even more, as employers tentatively adjust themselves to an unpredictability of the new economic reality.

Closer to home, the story’s much the same. Since the recession, four out of every five jobs added to the Canadian job market — in both the public and private sectors — have been temporary or contract work. On top of that, a new federal policy focus has boosted temporary foreign work permits, particularly in those job categories calling for lower rates of skill.

Across the board, the proportion of temps among the employment polls tells a story about a reinvented workforce. Companies are hiring differently today than in the past. Cautious about expanding their permanent ranks, they’re employing on-demand staffers discriminatingly, as required for projects.

And all of this is news worthy of our attention at large. Temporary staffing payrolls and hourly wage numbers are thought to be highly accurate predictors of future labour trends. As go the temps, the new reality goes, so goes the country.

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