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Archive for Monday, February 16, 2009

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Temp market tough, too

February 16, 2009

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Looking for temporary work? You might be in luck. Or you might not.

“It depends on the client and whether they are connected to the sector affected,” says Peter Steimle, branch manager for Sedona Staffing in Lawrence.

Affected, that is, by the sluggish economy.

While sectors such as construction and manufacturing are hurting, some others have constant needs.

Vangent Inc., one of Sedona’s biggest clients in Lawrence, operates a customer service call center that employs 1,500 workers, Steimle says. The company is always seeking temp workers to join its ranks.

Manufacturers in Lawrence that make materials used in construction have been hit the hardest, though, Steimle says. Companies that were making money during the real estate boom are just not hiring because the need for materials has dropped sharply because of the lack of new construction jobs.

“Not only are there no construction projects, but there are painters and construction workers having the hardest time finding work,” Steimle says.

There was a time when he could find them positions that would become permanent without much problem, he says. Those days are long gone.

Now, companies are more inclined to hire temporary workers for short-term projects instead of hiring full-time, says Heather Bunker, a staffing specialist at Manpower, another staffing service. In her database of workers, she estimates that between 10 and 15 percent are still looking for jobs.

“Work is more projects-based now,” Bunker says.

When projects last a few weeks or months, she says, it would not make good business sense to hire workers on, only to let them go if the money to pay them ran out. In the past, temporary workers might count on becoming part of the permanent staff, but that has gone by the wayside as well.

“I feel like a lot of companies are looking at the short-term to help them make it through the long-term,” she says. “I don’t think it’s going to change in a week, or two weeks.”

Lawrence resident Stacy Sabraw, 42, is feeling the pinch.

After being laid off from her job as a programs coordinator for a nonprofit charity in San Francisco, Sabraw took certification classes to teach English as a second language in France. When she could not land a job quickly after the certification and money ran low, she came back home to Lawrence. Now, she is trying to earn a paycheck while awaiting word on a teaching job that she hopes will open up around April.

“I would say it’s definitely affected me,” Sabraw says. “I’ve been back since January 14, and I’ve only worked six days.”

Sabraw has a day or two of work lined up at local staffing agency Manpower in the coming weeks, and she is also looking into graduate schools as a back-up in case the job opening falls through or is pushed back.

Shirley Martin-Smith, Adecco staffing franchise owner in Lawrence and Martin-Smith Personnel Services owner, knows the economic impact on manufacturing and clerical work in Lawrence. By her estimation, manufacturing jobs through her agency are down by 70 percent and clerical by 30 percent. Some days, 20 or 30 walk-ins come in looking for help, she says.

With unemployment at 7.6 percent nationally, the temp market has been flooded with laid-off workers looking for any way to earn a paycheck. But finding a job in these economic times is not impossible, Martin-Smith says. Opportunities in the future may rest with health care, engineering, information technology and the federal government.

“Are there a lot of jobs out there? No. Are there jobs? Yes. You just have dig for them,” she says. “This is a challenging time for the work force in general.”

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