Low-Income and Low-Skilled Workers Involvement in Nonstandard Employment. Where are the jobs?

10/01/2001

If we list the major industries that hire temporary workers (not just at-risk temporary workers), it is clear that the business services and auto and repair services industries are overwhelmingly important demanders of temporary labor--accounting for roughly half of all temporary help employment (See Table 3.4). However, most of this is accounted for by personnel supply services (Table 3.5), which in turn lease out the workers to other industries. In addition, durable goods manufacturing accounts for just over one in ten jobs for temporary help workers, and employment in other professional services another one in twenty. In examining those industries (at a finer level of industrial detail) that employ temporary help workers (Table 3.6), other important users of temporary help worker services are health services, hospitals, telephone communications, electrical machinery, equipment and supplies and computer and data processing services. There are few discernable trends in these patterns over the five-year period for which we have data.

Table 3.4
Major Industries of Agency Temps

Industry

% of Agency Temps in 1995 % of Agency Temps in 1997 % of Agency Temps in 1999
Agriculture 0.5% 1.0% 0.3%
Mining 0.5 0.9 0.0
Construction 3.1 1.0 2.4
Manufacturing - Durable Goods 11.9 10.9 14.7
Mfg. - Non-Durable Goods 7.5 7.2 6.6
Transportation 2.4 3.1 1.3
Communications 2.1 1.3 1.0
Utilities And Sanitary Services 0.3 0.6 0.5
Wholesale Trade 1.4 2.5 1.8
Retail Trade 1.9 1.1 1.6
Finance, Insurance, And Real Estate 1.8 4.7 2.8
Private Households 0.8 0.6 0.5
Business, Auto And Repair Services 55.2 50.1 53.0
Personal Services, Exc. Private Hhlds 0.7 0.4 1.2
Entertainment And Recreation Services 0.7 0.6 0.3
Hospitals 0.4 1.8 1.3
Medical Services, Exc. Hospitals 2.8 5.6 3.7
Educational Services 2.2 0.2 0.7
Social Services 1.0 1.1 0.3
Other Professional Services 2.4 5.3 4.6
Forestry And Fisheries 0.0 0.0 0.0
Public Administration 0.5 0.0 1.2
Armed Forces 0.0 0.0 0.0

Source: Current Population Survey matched February to March.

Table 3.5
Detailed Industries of Temps Working at Business, Auto, and Repair Services
(Industries in which over 2% of Business, Auto, and Repair Temps are Employed)
Year Detailed Industry Census Code % of Business, Auto and Repair Services Temps
1995 Personnel Supply Services 731 35.2%
Elec machinery, equip, and supplies, n.e.c. 342 3.3
Computer and Data Processing Services 732 3.0
Unknown 999 3.0
Credit agencies, n.e.c. 702 2.6
Construction 60 2.4
Banking 700 2.3
Insurance 711 2.1
1997 Personnel Supply Services 731 49.7%
Computer and Data Processing Services 732 7.2
Business services, n.e.c. 741 3.7
Soaps and cosmetics 182 2.4
Motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment 351 2.3
Unknown 999 2.2
Construction 60 2.0
1999 Personnel Supply Services 731 36.4%
Hospitals 831 5.4
Computer and Data Processing Services 732 4.7
Elec machinery, equip, and supplies, n.e.c. 342 3.3
Telephone communications 441 3.3
Insurance 711 2.8
Business services, n.e.c. 741 2.8
Unknown 999 2.5
Detective and protective services 740 2.4

Source: Current Population Survey matched February to March.

Table 3.6
Detailed Industries of Agency Temps
(Industries in which over 2.5% of All Agency Temps are Employed)
Year Detailed Industry Census Code % of Agency Temps Median Education Level Among All Temps Median Education Level Among All Workers
1995 Personnel supply services* 731 19.4% HS Grad Some College
Electrical machinery, equipment, and supplies 342 4.7 HS Grad Some College
Construction 60 4.4 HS Grad HS Grad
Telephone communications 441 2.6 Some College Some College
1997 Personnel supply services 731 24.9% HS Grad Some College
Health services 840 4.8 Some College College Grad
Computer and data processing services 732 3.6 College Grad College Grad
Motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment 351 2.8 Some College HS Grad
Machinery, except electrical 331 2.5 HS Grad HS Grad
1999 Personnel supply services 731 19.3% HS Grad Some College
Hospitals 831 4.2 College Grad College Grad
Health services 840 3.7 HS Grad College Grad
Electrical machinery, equipment, and supplies 342 3.1 Some College Some College
Telephone communications 441 2.7 Some College Some College
Computer and data processing services 732 2.5 Some College College Grad

Source: Current Population Survey, matched February to March
* Because most temp agency jobs fall under the Industry code, "Personnel Supply Services", respondents who listed this industry as their industry of employment were given a different code that represents the industry of the job to which the respondent is assigned by the temp agency. If the response to this code was missing or if the respondent again listed "Personnel Supply Services", then the individual retained the "Personnel Supply Services" code.

A detailed industry analysis reveals that the number of industries drawing on temporary help workers has increased, and that the median education level of temporary workers employed in these industries is quite high. In almost all of the industries in 1997 and 1999 (but not 1995), the median education level of workers is beyond high school, and in some (notably telephone communications and computer and data processing services), the median worker is a college graduate. It is also worth noting that there appears to be some increased demand for higher education qualifications among temporary help workers. All the "newly important" industries that emerge by 1999--namely, telephone communications and hospitals--have more temporary help workers with at least some college than not; the one "important" industry in 1995 that was no longer important by 1999 was construction, which had more high school graduates and dropouts than not. This trend stands in marked contrast to the average education level of the at-risk group in which we are interested (Table 3.3), where only about one in four workers has education beyond a high school diploma, as described previously. Finally, while the median temporary worker is usually less educated than the median regular worker in the firm that hires her, the level of skill required for the temporary job is usually below that of the median regular worker. This introduces the possibility that as skill levels in the economy as a whole increase, so will the demand for the skills of temporary help workers, with clear implications for at-risk temporary workers, who are generally less educated.

Although only a few industries account for the bulk of temporary worker hiring, the dominance of just a few sectors is less evident when the occupational distribution of temporary help workers is examined. As Table 3.7 shows, a large number of workers classify themselves as working in administrative support occupations (almost one in three), but we also see large numbers working as machine operators, assemblers, inspectors, handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers.

Table 3.7
Major Occupations of Agency Temps
Occupation % of Agency Temps in 1995 % of Agency Temps in 1997 % of Agency Temps in 1999
Executive, Admin, & Managerial Occs 6.0% 7.7% 4.5%
Professional Specialty Occs 8.6 7.4 6.8
Technicians And Related Support Occs 3.8 6.2 4.1
Sales Occs 3.1 1.4 1.6
Admin. Support Occs, Incl. Clerical 29.2 31.2 34.7
Private Household Occs 0.6 0.3 0.0
Protective Service Occs 1.6 0.9 1.3
Service Occs, Exc. Protective & Hhld 5.7 8.3 7.2
Precision Prod., Craft & Repair Occs 7.2 4.9 9.3
Machine Opers, Assemblers & Inspectors 17.9 19.3 19.5
Transportation And Material Moving Occs 3.0 2.8 2.0
Handlers,equip Cleaners,helpers,labors 12.6 7.7 8.5
Farming, Forestry And Fishing Occs 0.7 2.0 0.7
Armed Forces 0.0 0.0 0.0
Source: Current Population Survey matched February to March.

Again, turning to examine the occupations of temporary help workers in more detail, as Table 3.8 shows, it is clear that in 1995, the median education level of most temporary help workers in these occupations was quite low, and the occupations were fairly unskilled: laborers, secretaries, data entry keyers, assemblers, typists, nursing aides, and the like. However, just as the "newly important" industries in Table 3.6 employed a more highly educated temporary worker, on average, in 1999 than did the industries in 1995, so too did the educational mix of temporary workers in "important" occupations change by 1999. For example, bookkeepers, accounting and auditing clerks--an occupation in which the median temporary help worker had some college--appeared as an important occupation by 1999.

Table 3.8
Detailed Occupations of Agency Temps
(Occupations in which over 2.5% of All Agency Temps are Employed)
Year Detailed Occupation Census Code % of Agency Temps Median Education Level Among All Temps Median Education Level Among All Workers
1995 Laborers, except construction 889 6.9% HS Grad HS Grad
Secretaries 313 6.6 Some College HS Grad
Assemblers 785 6.2 HS Grad HS Grad
Data entry keyers 385 5.1 HS Grad Some College
Typists 315 2.8 HS Grad Some College
Receptionists 319 2.5 HS Grad HS Grad
Industrial truck and tractor equipment operators 856 2.5 HS Grad HS Grad
1997 Secretaries 313 8.2% Some College Some College
Assemblers 785 5.5 HS Grad HS Grad
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants 447 5.0 HS Grad HS Grad
Laborers, except construction 889 4.7 HS Grad HS Grad
General office clerks 379 3.8 Some College Some College
File clerks 335 2.8 Some College HS Grad
1999 Assemblers 785 7.0% Some College HS Grad
Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants 447 5.1 HS Grad HS Grad
Laborers, except construction 889 5.0 Some College HS Grad
Secretaries 313 4.8 Some College Some College
Bookkeepers, accounting, and auditing clerks 337 3.9 Some College Some College
Data entry keyers 385 3.7 Some College HS Grad
File clerks 335 2.9 HS Grad HS Grad
Machine operators, not specified 779 2.7 HS Grad HS Grad

Source: Current Population Survey matched February to March.

In general, just as with the industry analysis, the type of temporary help worker that is needed appears to be changing. In 1995, the education level of temporary help workers matched the education level of the regular workers in their occupations. By 1999, the median temporary help worker's education exceeded that of regular workers in three of the eight most important occupations. Indeed, the median education level for temporary help workers in five of these eight occupations was "some college," which is well above the education level of at-risk temporary workers.