May 7, 2010 / 3:58 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. staffing execs see slow, steady jobs recovery

* Continued jobs recovery seen as hiring broadens

* Demand for temps seen as leading indicator

* No effect yet on US hiring mood from Europe debt crisis

By Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK, May 7 (Reuters) - The April U.S. government jobs report shows the same slow, steady improvement in demand for workers that staffing industry executives are seeing in their own business.

Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics report and staffing firms’ internal data suggest the labor recovery will continue in the near term, executives say. However, shares of staffing industry companies were lower, part of a wider stock market downturn amid continued fears a debt crisis in Europe would spread.

U.S. temporary hiring “continues to show strength,” said Tig Gilliam, who heads North American operations for Adecco SA ADEN.VX>, the third largest employer in the United States, behind Wal-Mart (WMT.N) and the postal system.

“The overall BLS report doesn’t show acceleration, but our numbers do,” Gilliam said. “Rates coming out of April are stronger than coming out of March.”

Gilliam added that some temporary assignments were being extended, and customers were making fewer requests for part-time versus full-time workers. Longer working hours, which the government data also showed, suggest permanent hiring will pick up in coming months, he said.

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U.S. nonfarm payrolls grew at the fastest rate in four years last month, adding 290,000 jobs, well ahead of expectations. The jobless rate rose to 9.9 percent, however, as more unemployed people looked for work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said on Friday. [ID:nN06115059]

Higher demand for temporary workers typically precedes permanent hiring, as employers look for flexibility before committing to a full-time hire.

The rate of temporary workers in the labor force, a leading indicator, rose to 1.58 percent and is now well above recession lows of 1.33 percent. Temp workers themselves are feeling more confident. A monthly survey by SFN Group SFN.N shows their optimism is the highest since 2007.

“It’s more slow and steady,” said SFN Chief Executive Roy Krause about the pace of employment recovery. But he noted that placement of clerical and administrative staff was up. That shows demand is broadening out from just the light industrial segment, which tends to lead a recovery.

“If you start to add clerical skills, it means probably you’re starting to grow your business,” Krause said.

EMPLOYER CONFIDENCE

    The number of jobs posted on Dice.com, a jobs site for technology professionals, is up 41 percent year-over-year, double the increase in April, which itself was double the increase in March.

    More jobs are being posted for permanent positions rather than shorter-term contracts, said Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings Inc (DHX.N), which also runs eFinancialCareers.com.

    “Companies only hire full-time when they are confident about their business prospects,” Melland said. “We appear to be starting to shift from temporary to full-time growth, and that’s consistent with what we’re seeing at Dice.”

    Staffing executives said the debt crisis in Europe was not affecting customer confidence in the United States -- at least so far. Governments around the world sought to calm markets after fears about Greece’s debt crisis went global, with investors seeing it as an omen of turmoil in other European economies. [ID:nSGE64608F]

    But Adecco’s Gilliam, whose company is Swiss-based, said the crisis was affecting customers’ confidence in Europe by creating uncertainty about the economic environment.

    Asked about Thursday’s stock market swoon that took the Dow Jones industrials down almost 1,000 points at the day’s lows, Gilliam said: “The good news is the job market is not controlled by trading programs. It is much more steady, and this jobs report shows we continue to move in the right direction.”

    This week’s stock sell-off in the United States extended into Friday and staffing industry shares were down across the board.

    Manpower Inc (MAN.N) shares were down 1.2 percent to $50.24. Robert Half International Inc (RHI.N) fell nearly 1 percent to $26.17. SFN Group Inc SFN.N lost 1.7 percent to $7.38, all on the New York Stock Exchange.

    In trade on the Nasdaq, Hudson Highland Group Inc HHGP.O. lost 4 percent to $5.11 but Kelly Services Inc (KELYA.O) was up 7 cents to $14.70, recovering from a low of $14.08.

    Reporting by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

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