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The evolution of the demand for temporary help supply employment in the United States

  • Marcello Estevao
  • Saul Lach

The level of temporary help supply (THS) employment surged during the late 1980s and the 1990s. However, we know little about where these workers were placed and, thus, there is a gap in our understanding of cyclical and trend industry employment in the U.S. To close this gap, we estimate the proportion of THS employees in each major U.S. industry during 1977-97 using information from input-output tables and from the Contingent Worker Supplements to the CPS surveys of February 1995 and February 1997. Our estimates indicate that almost all of the growth in THS employment is attributed to a change in the hiring behavior of firms, rather than to a disproportional increase in the size of more THS-intensive industries. In fact, the proportion of THS employees in each major American industry, except the public sector, increased during our sample period. These increases were particularly large in services and in manufacturing where by 1997 close to 4 percent of all employees were THS workers. The public sector, which had demanded almost 40 percent of all THS workers in 1982, hired a negligibly small number of THS workers in 1997.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 1999-58.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:1999-58
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  1. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1997. "The Growth of Temporary Services Work," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 117-136, Spring.
  2. Marcello Estevao & Saul Lach, 1999. "Measuring temporary labor outsourcing in U.S. manufacturing," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-57, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Katharine G. Abraham & Susan K. Taylor, 1993. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 4468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David H. Autor, 2001. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1409-1448, November.
  5. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1995. "The temporary labor force," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Mar, pages 2-19.
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