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Temporary agency work and the business cycle


  • Marloes de Graaf-Zijl
  • Ernest E. Berkhout


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to test the relationship between gross domestic product (GDP) and agency work. Design/methodology/approach - The paper develops a theoretical model for the time interdependence of GDP, agency work and regular employment and tested model predictions using a VAR model. Findings - Results show that on the macro level temporary agency work leads GDP development. Temporary agency work is an excellent instrument for employers to adjust the size of their workforce to fluctuations in product demand. Temporary work agencies, however, have a tough job finding qualified personnel in tight labour markets because workers generally prefer the security of a permanent contract. It is shown in this paper that, as a result of these two countervailing forces, the number of hours worked through temporary work agencies precedes GDP development. Agency work increases in the last phase of a recession after regular workers have been dismissed. It expands further, in line with GDP, when the trough is passed until agency worker's labour supply stagnates. This leads to a decrease in agency hours even before the business cycle reaches its peak. Then agency work declines further, in line with GDP, until regular workers are dismissed and the cycle start again. Originality/value - Temporary work arrangements have become a key area of interest for firms, academics and policy makers. This paper shows how the use of these work arrangement fluctuates over time. Also, this paper shows that agency work can be used in predicting future GDP development.

Suggested Citation

  • Marloes de Graaf-Zijl & Ernest E. Berkhout, 2007. "Temporary agency work and the business cycle," International Journal of Manpower, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 28(7), pages 539-556, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:ijmpps:v:28:y:2007:i:7:p:539-556

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    Cited by:

    1. Cristini, Annalisa & Origo, Federica & Pinoli, Sara, 2017. "The healthy fright of losing a good one for a bad one," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 129-144.
    2. van den Berg, Chantal & Bijleveld, Catrien & Hendriks, Jan & Mooi-Reci, Irma, 2014. "The juvenile sex offender: The effect of employment on offending," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 145-152.
    3. Jahn, Elke Jutta & Rosholm, Michael, 2015. "The Cyclicality of the Stepping Stone Effect of Temporary Agency Employment," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113117, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Marloes Graaf-Zijl, 2012. "Job Satisfaction and Contingent Employment," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(2), pages 197-218, June.
    5. Andersson Joona, Pernilla & Wadensjö, Eskil, 2012. "A Price for Flexibility? The Temp Agency Wage Gap in Sweden 1998-2008," IZA Discussion Papers 6587, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Jahn, Elke J. & Rosholm, Michael, 2018. "The Cyclicality of the Stepping-Stone Effect of Temporary Agency Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 11377, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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