Freelancers and Temps See Mixed Signals of an Economic RecoveryFor Janna Kalichman, "even" is the new "up."

While the Los Angeles-based marketing and public-relations specialist has seen an uptick in the amount of work she's getting this year, the same can't be said for her income, thanks to pay rates that have fallen steadily since the Great Recession began unfolding.

"Clients are paying me significantly less for the same types of jobs I did three years ago," says Kalichman, whose company, AmIWrite, has clients in the consumer products, hospitality and entertainment industries. "I have to take on more jobs to cobble together my former income."

While the unemployment rate for full-time employees has remained frustratingly high, the sector of the workforce specializing in contract, freelance and short-term jobs has taken on a split personality of sorts.

Specialists in public relations, advertising and other creative and professional services are either scrambling to maintain their income levels by taking on more jobs, or coping with less work and less take-home pay. But larger companies appear to be taking baby steps toward expanding their businesses by hiring more temporary workers. The staffing-industry workforce has increased by about 400,000, or 27%, to about 2 million people within the past year, the American Staffing Association said in a Sept. 3 statement.

A Small Bump Up in Temp Hiring and Salaries

ASA members "report that businesses are being very strategic about adding back permanent jobs, timing employment increases with sustained increases in demand," said Richard Wahlquist, the ASA's president and CEO, in the statement.

Freelance work at the professional level is harder to track, though, because most of that work isn't handled by staffing or temp agencies. oDesk Corp., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based self-service online work marketplace, says demand has doubled in the past year for the more than 300,000 contractors in its database, whose specialties range from Web and software development, design and multimedia to customer service and marketing. Further, their average hourly rate has risen about 15% since March 2009, when it recorded its lowest point on record.

That said, oDesk's average paid hourly rate is slightly less than $18, a fraction of the hourly rate demanded by upper-level contract professionals. And that's the work gun-shy companies appear to be either delaying or bargaining down as they take a wait-and-see approach with the economy.

Regardless, the contract and freelance market bears watching as the full-time unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high. U.S. unemployment actually rose 0.1% to 9.6% in August, though that was down slightly from 9.7% a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a Sept. 3 report. Even more troubling, the number of people unemployed for at least six months in August jumped 24% to 6.25 million, according to the BLS.

Manpower Predicts a Full-Time Hiring Bump

Still, there are signs of life in the hiring market for both full-timers and free-lancers. The number of U.S. job openings increased 6.2% in July from June and surged 30% from a year earlier, with the hospitality, health-services, education and construction industries leading the charge, the Labor Department said Sept. 8.

Milwaukee-based staffing company Manpower (MAN) predicts that U.S. companies will boost fourth-quarter hiring 5% from a year earlier, citing the results of a survey it released Sept. 7. Still, while companies in 11 of the 13 industry sectors Manpower surveyed have a positive outlook on the economy, almost three-quarters of respondents said they had no plans to change staffing levels in the fourth quarter, leaving full-timers and contractors alike on edge.

"Looking back at where we were in 2009, the employment environment is more promising now. However, many employers are still unsure about how the economy will fare and how robust the recovery will be," said Jonas Prising, Manpower's president of the Americas, in a statement. "Until we move beyond this uncertainty, we are unlikely to see employers hire in a meaningful way, and this is evident in their consistently modest hiring plans."

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Wait till you see what happens to wages once reid & obama push through their "Dream Act" that will legalize 20+ million ILLEGALS and their families!!!

September 17 2010 at 12:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The majority of new Walmart "associates" are hired on a part time basis for several reasons. This gives them an anfair edge on being able to offer lower prices than their competitors. They don't have to offer benefits thereby cutting the cost of extra paperwork. Also by only hiring only part time they force the taxpayers to subsudsidise their payroll by making these unfortunate "associates" eligible for food stamps, subsidized housing, and any number of other welfare type government programs. The price you pay at the checkout is only part of the total price of the goods you have just purchased. The rest of the cost is paid on April 15th.

September 17 2010 at 1:58 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wlmrtwilly's comment

live with it

September 17 2010 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what you peaple dont relize is the fact that having a job,401,health care is a privlage not a RIGHT

September 17 2010 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to erikka51's comment

the basic needs for survival are a right for all human beings. have you no heart?

September 21 2010 at 9:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Cherpak

In all honesty, employment is becoming more and more dependable upon the temp agencies- reason- temps don't get holiday pay, don't get paid vacation, must work in and around environments- and one word describes it 'TEMPS!'

September 16 2010 at 10:37 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Until there is a surge in Hard Goods Manufacturing jobs, any increase in the service industry will be short lived. There has to be someone who can afford to pay for that service. Same argument for the construction industry. Just in case that was too complicated think of it this way. If everyone were nurses, where would the patients come from?

September 16 2010 at 10:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ghmcr's comment

Nurses aren't immune to sickness or injury, hospitality people travel and stay in hotels. Construction workers drive on roads and bridges. What does manufactoring jobs have to do with this? Manufacturing in the United States is ending because we won't pay the price for goods. We, as a society, will shop exclusively at Wal-Mart to save a few dollars at the expense of small businesses and minimum-wage-workers. Any job growth creates more income for workers who will pay for services.

September 17 2010 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elizabeth Shelor

It is so wrong the way temps are done for they don't get vacation. They have to pay a small fortune for their benefits. They don't get pto. They are not given the same benefits are work just as hard sometime even harder than the permanent employees. I know this first hand for my husband has been a temp for 3 years for the same company. It is not right the way they are done.

September 16 2010 at 10:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I don't believe it and don't consider the temp agencies a legitimate source of this type of information. I also don't believe they make any attempt to find a job for most who apply.

September 16 2010 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All part-time no benefit jobs. Most temp positions offer low pay and no or few expensive benefits. They are a legal way for the employer to screen potential employees, and let you go if they don't like something about you. Most if not all new jobs will be part-time, low minimum wage, no benefit,no opportunity, short term Wal-Mart or Burger Barn type. Good luck to all you job seekers and watch out for the illegal "off the books" workers who take the jobs from American citizens.

September 16 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Susie - For you we need to apply the "Gump Therory"! You can't fix stupid!!!!

September 16 2010 at 5:16 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply

The first thing President Obama should do is get rid of all Temp Services. They have taken away full time jobs and benefits for all americans. As soon as these services started america started going down the toilet as well as, over seas jobs and illegal workers. It is the governments job and duty to make this right for the american people, not the low lifes who want to get everything and give nothing to their workers.

September 16 2010 at 2:57 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to susie's comment

The last thing this country needs is Obama getting more power to meddle in our lives. Vote him out.

September 16 2010 at 3:52 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply