Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Temporary, But Maybe Not

The temporary job market, or at least the part of it that I can easily observe, seems to be tightening up again. One measure of this is that “contract-to-hire” jobs are languishing. “Contract-to-hire” is a low-paying temporary job with the vague promise of a possibility of a permanent job offer after a year or so. It makes sense from the job-seeker’s point of view that these would be the first positions to go vacant. These “temporary, but maybe not” openings appealed to job-seekers who really wanted a permanent job, only because there were no permanent jobs to apply to. With an increase in permanent job postings, workers who want the stability and benefits that go with a permanent job will apply directly for the available permanent jobs.

“Temporary, but maybe not” is also not the right formula for workers who really want a temporary job, and the low pay offered with these jobs makes them unsuitable for those who just want the highest pay they can find.

It also makes sense when you take a broader view of the market that the most non-committal employers, those who can’t make up their minds, would have the toughest time in a tightening market, even as employers who are willing to commit to a business plan still find it easy to hire at will.

It sounds like a problem when businesses create job positions that they don’t fill, and in a way it is, but it is also a favorable sign for the economy. It creates the possibility of a more rapid expansion in employment down the road.

Update, a day later: See a more thorough discussion of the sudden imbalances in hiring from a human resources point of view in the article “Recession Fallout in HR: Why Aren’t Hiring Managers Getting the Message?” by Tim Sackett.