Low-Income and Low-Skilled Workers Involvement in Nonstandard Employment. Summing Up


The descriptive statistics presented above provide some evidence that workers at risk of welfare receipt fare worse in alternative work arrangements than do other workers in such arrangements--although the degree to which they fare worse varies depending on what measure is used. However, in general, at-risk workers in temporary work have lower wages, a greater likelihood of part-time work and shorter job duration than do others in temporary work, and certainly than regular workers. In addition, at-risk workers in temporary work are less likely to have employer-provided benefits than are regular workers. Not surprisingly, at-risk workers are also less happy with their work, and more likely to be in the job for economic reasons than are other temporary help workers. There is little evidence of any trends for the better or worse in these levels over time, although much of this may be attributable to small sample sizes.

It is also worth noting that the level of education of at-risk workers is, by and large, very low, and that it is possible that the alternative to work in temporary help services is not regular employment, but, rather, nonemployment. Thus, the comparison of wages, employment duration, and benefits to those achieved by workers in regular employment may not be the appropriate comparison. We examine this in more detail in Appendix B, where we present the results of constructing the appropriate comparison groups based on the analysis of the SIPP.

The differences in educational attainment between temporary help and at-risk temporary help workers could prove to be quite important in another dimension. In particular, it appears that the dominant employers of temporary help workers are increasingly requiring more skill, as are the occupations in which temporary help workers are working. Since three out of four at-risk workers are high school graduates or less, this is a cause for concern. However, the literature review suggested that while there are many reasons for firms to use alternative work arrangements, the main source of demand comes from primarily short-term firm staffing needs. Thus, the increased demand for skilled temporary help workers may reflect skill shortages in the economy at large rather than a structural change in the nature of temporary help work.

Finally, although one might expect there to be some relationship between the industries and occupations that predominantly hire low-wage workers and those that predominantly hire temporary help workers, the descriptive statistics did not find this to be the case. This result is consistent with the literature review. The decision to hire low-wage workers is driven by long-term production decisions, which is evident from the stability of the types of industries that hire low-wage workers. In contrast, the need for temporary help workers is driven by short-term staffing needs and will reflect economic conditions as a whole.


49.  A full discussion of these different data sources is provided in Appendix A.

50.  A full discussion of the details surrounding this decision is provided in Appendix A.

51.  Sample sizes shown in Table 3.1 should be considered when evaluating these trends.

52.  Lane, Julia. "The Role of Job Turnover in the Low-Wage Labor Market." In Low-Wage Labor Market: Challenges and Opportunities for Economic Self-Sufficiency, edited by Kelleen Kaye and Demetra Smith Nightingale, pp. 185-198. Urban Institute Press, 2000.

53. One major caveat to this discussion is that almost one in four temporary help workers show up as working for personnel supply services. They could, in turn, be leased to any industry, but the data do not permit this kind of tracking.

54. Industry projections are taken from the BLS website at http://www.bls.gov.