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Finance and Economics Discussion Series
The Finance and Economics Discussion Series logo links to FEDS home page The Evolution of the Demand for Temporary Help Supply Employment in the United States
Marcello Estevao and Saul Lach

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: Contingent workers, adjustment margin, new economy, structural changes, sectoral effects

Full paper (139 KB PDF) | Full paper (971 KB Postscript)

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Last update: December 21, 1999