Employment in Washington County increased by 3.2% between December 2009 and December 2010, an uptick driven by the “employment services” sector, otherwise known as temp hires. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics and Oregon Employment Department analyses, during that one-year period, Washington County added 3,100 temp jobs, an 11.4% increase from the year before.
Growth in temp services was one of the primary reasons Washington County had the seventh-highest growth rate among large counties of the nation, said Tian Luo, a BLS economist. Large counties are defined as those with employment of 75,000 or more measured by 2009 annual average employment. Employment also increased in Multnomah County, but only by 2%.
The fact that Washington County serves as the state’s economic engine is not so surprising. But why the boom in temp services?
“Many employers are uncertain about the duration of the recovery so they hire part-time help,” says state economist Amy Vander Vliet. Unlike Multnomah County, Washington County is also home to large manufacturers and exporters, sectors that have rebounded more quickly from the downturn and are large consumers of temp help, Vander Vliet says.
Michael Reed, a co-owner of Staffing Partners, an Oregon employment services firm, echoes Vander Vliet’s analysis. “People are still a little gun shy,” Reed says. “As employers increase production needs, instead of committing and hiring people themselves they will use a staffing company.” In 2011, business has increased by about 15% in the company’s Beaverton and Portland offices, Reed says.
Washington County may be leading the nation in job growth, but the economic recovery itself is looking increasingly temporary.