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The Role of Temporary Agency Employment in Tight Labor Markets

Author

Listed:
  • Susan N. Houseman
  • Arne L. Kalleberg
  • George A. Erickcek

Abstract

The authors use case study evidence from hospitals and auto parts manufacturers to investigate why employers used—and even increased their use of—temporary help agencies during a period of tight labor markets in the 1990s. In high-skill occupations, the evidence suggests employers paid substantially more to agency help than to regular employees in large part to gain additional time to recruit employees for permanent positions and thereby avoid raising wages for new hires and existing employees. In low-skill occupations, temporary help agencies appear to have facilitated the use of more “risky†workers by lowering their wages and benefits and the costs associated with turnover. As in high-skill occupations, the use of agency temporaries in low-skill occupations relieved pressure on companies facing tight labor markets to raise employees' wages, and may have contributed to the stagnant wage growth and low unemployment observed in the 1990s.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan N. Houseman & Arne L. Kalleberg & George A. Erickcek, 2003. "The Role of Temporary Agency Employment in Tight Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(1), pages 105-127, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:57:y:2003:i:1:p:105-127
    DOI: 10.1177/001979390305700106
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David H. Autor, 2003. "Outsourcing at Will: The Contribution of Unjust Dismissal Doctrine to the Growth of Employment Outsourcing," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-42, January.
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    4. Garth Mangum & Donald Mayall & Kristin Nelson, 1985. "The Temporary Help Industry: A Response to the Dual Internal Labor Market," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 38(4), pages 599-611, July.
    5. Fred A. Bellemore, 1998. "Temporary Employment Decisions of Registered Nurses," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 265-279, Summer.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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