IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/7557.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Outsourcing at Will: Unjust Dismissal Doctrine and the Growth of Temporary Help Employment

Author

Listed:
  • David H. Autor

Abstract

The U.S. temporary help services (THS) industry grew at 11 percent annually between 1979 to 1995, five times more rapidly than non-farm employment. Contemporaneously, courts in 46 states adopted exceptions to the common law doctrine of employment at will that limit employers' discretion to terminate workers and opened them to litigation. This paper assesses whether the decline of employment at will and the growth of THS are causally related. To aid the analysis, the paper considers a simple model of employment outsourcing, the primary implication of which is that firms will respond to externally imposed firing costs by outsourcing positions requiring the least firm-specific skills rather than those with the highest expected termination costs. The empirical analysis indicates that one class of exception, the implied contractual right to ongoing employment, led to 14 to 22 percent excess temporary help growth in adopting states. Unjust dismissal doctrines did not significantly contribute to employment growth in other business service industries. Temporary help employment is closely correlated with union penetration, with states experiencing the least rapid decline in unionization undergoing substantially faster THS growth. The decline of employment at will explains as much as 20 percent of the growth of THS between 1973 to 1995 and accounts for 336,000 to 494,000 additional workers employed in THS on a daily basis as of 1999.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor, 2000. "Outsourcing at Will: Unjust Dismissal Doctrine and the Growth of Temporary Help Employment," NBER Working Papers 7557, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7557
    Note: LS
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7557.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua D. Angrist, 2001. "Consequences of Employment Protection? The Case of the Americans with Disabilities Act," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(5), pages 915-957, October.
    3. 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.
    4. Paul Oyer & Scott Schaefer, 2002. "Litigation Costs and Returns to Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(3), pages 683-705, June.
    5. Donohue, John J, III & Heckman, James, 1991. "Continuous versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1603-1643, December.
    6. David H. Autor, 2001. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1409-1448.
    7. David Lewin, 1987. "Dispute Resolution in the Nonunion Firm," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 31(3), pages 465-502, September.
    8. Edward P. Lazear, 1990. "Job Security Provisions and Employment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 699-726.
    9. Abraham, Katharine G & Taylor, Susan K, 1996. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 394-424, July.
    10. 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.).
    11. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1998. "Wage differentials for temporary services work: evidence from administrative data," Working Paper Series WP-98-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    12. Aghion, Philippe & Hermalin, Benjamin, 1990. "Legal Restrictions on Private Contracts Can Enhance Efficiency," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 381-409, Fall.
    13. Prendergast, Canice, 1992. "Career development and specific human capital collection," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 207-227, September.
    14. Levine, David I, 1991. "Just-Cause Employment Policies in the Presence of Worker Adverse Selection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(3), pages 294-305, July.
    15. 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.
    16. Canice Prendergast, 1993. "The Role of Promotion in Inducing Specific Human Capital Acquisition," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 523-534.
    17. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2005. "The consequences of labor market flexibility: Panel evidence based on survey data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(5), pages 1225-1259, July.
    18. Susan N. Houseman & Anne E. Polivka, 1999. "The Implications of Flexible Staffing Arrangements for Job Stability," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 99-56, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    19. Paul Oyer & Scott Schaefer, 2000. "Layoffs and Litigation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 31(2), pages 345-358, Summer.
    20. Alan B. Krueger, 1991. "The Evolution of Unjust-Dismissal Legislation in the United States," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(4), pages 644-660, July.
    21. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1997. "Temporary services employment durations: evidence from state UI data," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    22. Lewis M. Segal & Daniel G. Sullivan, 1995. "The temporary labor force," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, vol. 19(Mar), pages 2-19.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. David H. Autor & John J. Donohue & Stewart J. Schwab, 2006. "The Costs of Wrongful-Discharge Laws," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(2), pages 211-231, May.
    2. Matthew Dey & Susan Houseman & Anne Polivka, 2010. "What Do We Know About Contracting Out in the United States? Evidence from Household and Establishment Surveys," NBER Chapters, in: Labor in the New Economy, pages 267-304, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David H. Autor, 2001. "Why Do Temporary Help Firms Provide Free General Skills Training?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1409-1448.
    4. Andrea Vindigni & Simone Scotti & Cristina Tealdi, 2015. "Uncertainty and the Politics of Employment Protection," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 209-267.
    5. John T. Addison & Christopher J. Surfield, 2005. "‘Atypical Work’ and Compensation," GEMF Working Papers 2005-14, GEMF, Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra.
    6. Kvasnicka, Michael & Werwatz, Axel, 2002. "On the wages of temporary help service workers in Germany," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 2002,70, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
    7. Adriana D. Kugler, 2004. "The Effect of Job Security Regulations on Labor Market Flexibility. Evidence from the Colombian Labor Market Reform," NBER Chapters, in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 183-228, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Susan N. Houseman, 2001. "Why Employers Use Flexible Staffing Arrangements: Evidence from an Establishment Survey," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 55(1), pages 149-170, October.
    9. Marcello M. Estevao & Saul Lach, 1999. "The Evolution of the Demand for Temporary Help Supply Employment in the United States," NBER Working Papers 7427, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Edward P. Lazear, 1995. "Personnel Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262121883, December.
    11. Ann Bartel & Saul Lach & Nachum Sicherman, 2005. "Outsourcing and Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 11158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Kugler, Adriana & Saint-Paul, Gilles, 2000. "Hiring and Firing Costs, Adverse Selection and Long-term Unemployment," IZA Discussion Papers 134, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    13. Adrienne T. Edisis, 2016. "The Effect of Unemployment Insurance on Temporary Help Services Employment," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 37(4), pages 484-503, December.
    14. 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.
    15. Yukako Ono & Daniel Sullivan, 2013. "Manufacturing Plants' Use of Temporary Workers: An Analysis Using Census Microdata," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 419-443, April.
    16. Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2002. "Sorting, Quotas, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991: Who Hires When It's Hard to Fire?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(1), pages 41-68, April.
    17. Genevieve Knight & Zhang Wei, 2015. "Isolating the Determinants of Temporary Agency Worker Use by Firms: An Analysis of Temporary Agency Workers in Australian Aged Care," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 18(2), pages 205-237.
    18. Matthew Dey & Susan Houseman & Anne Polivka, 2006. "Manufacturers' Outsourcing to Employment Services," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 07-132, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    19. Alison L. Booth & Marco Francesconi & Jeff Frank, 2002. "Temporary Jobs: Stepping Stones Or Dead Ends?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(480), pages 189-213, June.
    20. Booth, Alison L. & Francesconi, Marco & Frank, Jeff, 2000. "Temporary jobs: who gets them, what are they worth, and do they lead anywhere?," ISER Working Paper Series 2000-13, Institute for Social and Economic Research.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7557. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.