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Posted on Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:32 a.m.

Now Hiring: Ann Arbor area job growth boosted by temporary hiring agencies

By Ben Freed

More people are currently employed in the Ann Arbor area than ever before, but hiring is not slowing down.

According to University of Michigan economists George Fulton and Don Grimes, earlier this summer Washtenaw County passed the previous jobs peak from the fall of 2002. A rapidly increasing labor force, the measure of people either working or looking for jobs, can hardly keep up with demand from employers.


As the economy continues to improve and more "help wanted" signs hang from windows, many temporary hires are turning into permanent jobs.

Daniel Brenner |

“There aren’t enough people to fill the jobs right now,” Manpower Inc. staffing solutions leader Dawn Simpson said.

Manpower is a temporary staffing agency that helps find employees for a wide range of business.

“People say there’s no work, but there’s work,” she said.

“When the economy takes a downswing they let go a lot of employees, then when it picks up they’ll call a contractor or temporary service because they’re not sure it’s quite back yet, so they use us.”

The jobs rebound is being led by the “professional and business services” sector, which includes a wide variety of jobs ranging from architects to basic scientists to lawyers. According to a report from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and the Budget, the sector added 900 jobs in May and 1,900 since May 2012, accounting for over half of the private sector jobs added in the past year.

“Temporary help companies are actually in that sector as well, and firms use them all the time,” Grimes said.

“When you get a recovery, firms typically don’t want to hire people on a permanent basis right away so they need to have someone produce the products they’re making, so the way they add to their labor is through a temporary help agency. That means you get a big spike in the sector at the beginning of a recovery.”

Because temporary agencies fit into business and professional services, it can be difficult to gauge which sectors are actually driving the comeback. Many of the agencies offer employment opportunities in areas that are hesitant to add new full time employees.

The darker side to temporary jobs is that they can disappear as quickly as they grow. Between 2007 and 2009, the sector lost over 3,400 jobs according to previous county economic forecasts.

“The first thing that happens after a recession is a lot of manufacturing companies use them to add workers when they get a spike in demand,” Grimes said. “They also can keep some people on this status when things are going well and they’re the first to disappear. They go down really quickly in a recession.”

Simpson said Manpower acts as a stepping-stone for people entering or returning to the workforce. The Washtenaw County labor force grew by 2,400 in May and is up 5,000 over the past year according to the DTMB report.

“It’s a very diverse group of people we’re seeing looking for jobs,” she said.

“There are people coming for second careers, people just out of school, and people saying ‘how do I find the job.’ But the industry is fun right now because it’s booming. Everyone is taking a deep breath and saying wow we’re on an upswing and that’s an exciting time.”

The company does background checks on its applicants and helps coach them on how to keep a job once they are placed. Grimes said companies often hire temporary workers full-time once they are more confident that the economy is on more solid ground.

“If you get a good temp worker in your plant or store or office, then you’re going to offer that person a job if you need a permanent hire,” he said.

“You figure out that this is a good person to have and you don’t have to go through the job search process. In some ways a more efficient way to go, almost like an internship.”

Simpson said that as the recovery has progressed, her agency has continued to field calls from employers for more jobs than she has people available. Economists expect that as the economy stabilizes, temporary hiring will level off and the rest of the professional and business services sector will begin to make up ground.

“When you look at the subsectors (within professional and business services) for the last year or so you’re seeing that the growth is dispersing to more of the industries,” Grimes said.

“You’re seeing more of the professional, architecture, legal, computer programing and management consulting-type jobs. That means higher-paying jobs, which is a good sign.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

The company I work for hires temps mostly to see if the temp really wants to work or not. You maybe surprised how many temps work a day or two and than never show up again, or go on break never to be seen again.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 9:30 p.m.

UM used to keep "temps" on the payroll for years - basically for as long as they were needed or cared to stay. I've heard they don't do that anymore because if the temps stay around for more than a year, they aren't really temps and are supposed to be hired as regular permanent staff. So now I guess they boot you after a year, and maybe hire you back after some preordained interval has passed. At any rate, given all the economic uncertainties, I'd be willing to bet that few of these jobs ever become permanent. This centipede economy has lots of other shoes to drop.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:58 p.m.

@chapmaja - Based on personal experience, I would certainly agree with your view of the U's employment shenanigans. You better have something they REALLY want to go from temp to staff these days... even in decades past it was a challenge. I managed to do it once, but after several years on staff, I was RIFed because of funding issues - and subsequently had an experience similar to your mom's, until I found work elsewhere.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 1:18 p.m.

CynicA2: If you're a temp and the department wants to keep you, you work for 11 months and are "laid off" for 1 month (the temp can collect unemployment for that month). Then you start another cycle. It's common for a department to have the money to keep someone on as temp, but they haven't been given approval to create a new permanent position. I know people who worked as a temp this way for the same department for years until the department convinced the right people that they needed another permanent position, and then they were able to become permanent after intervieweing for the job.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10:06 p.m.

MyOpinion, I voted your comment down for 1 reason and 1 reason only. Very few temps actually get into UofM full time. UofM, at least the health system is a who you are related to system. As an example. My mother worked as a temp in several different departments, and has learned several different systems used within the health system. She has made a good impression with all of her bosses and simply gets the work done. Despite all of this she has applied for over 100 jobs, and has interviewed for about 5. Several of those jobs she found out went to employees who have a relative working in the system already. She also found this out from a friend of our family, who works in the system. She was able to get a family member into a position at UofM over several other people with much longer working careers and much more experience in the job.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

UofM's health system seems to rely very heavily on temporary workers, when they can find the money. My mother has worked a string of different temp jobs with the UofM health system over the past several years. When 1 jobs ends, it is not more than a week or two before she is in a different department of the health system. She has applied for over 100 full times jobs with the health system, and has gotten maybe 5 interviews. UofM has a very strange process of hiring, it is who you know, or who you are related to as much as it is how you do the job.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

The rule at UM is that a "position" cannot be filled with a string of temps year after year. If it is a permanent position, it should be filled with a regular employee. That said, there are plenty of positions that are filled by a string of work study students. A person can be temp for life at UM, but they need to change positions. And, some of these folks end up as regulars at UM. They learn some of the UM systems, make a good impression, find out about jobs, etc.

Linda Peck

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

There are some good temp jobs and I have had a few and been offered some very fine permanent jobs as a result. It is a way to do what you like, when you like, and if you have proper training, you may have good opportunities and experiences. Substitute teachers are temps, too, right? Also, as a self-employed person I have always paid for my own benefits and appreciate the fact that I am my own boss. There are many lifestyles and many types of jobs. Why be negative about temp jobs?


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:21 p.m.

I agree with you Mike on the point: "Most of these people are not counted on the unemployment rolls when they do not find work, but the part time position they held for a day is included on the new hiring this country seems to be having."

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

@Mike, Highly skilled temporary professionals can make more than their managers. Some companies offer permanent positions to temporary workers with valuable benefits but also huge pay cuts in order to fit into their salary structure. The permanent positions go to someone with less experience and lower salary expectations.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 9:29 p.m.

There is never a reason to be negative about any job. The issue here is not the job. The issue is that companies use the temp services to avoid legal obligations that they would normally have to a full time employee. The reasons for companies to avoid these responsibilities are too numerous to get into here, but you can figure that most of them have something to do with government regulations. Now today, there are more regulations then ever before. Temp services are wonderful for those persons that are traveling and only want to provide for themselves until they get to the next town. Most non transient people today would like a permanent job. Something that they can depend on for next weeks expenses. Most of these people are not counted on the unemployment rolls when they do not find work, but the part time position they held for a day is included on the new hiring this country seems to be having. I too have held temp positions. Your employer knows nothing about the work you may doing at the place you may be working. I told my supervisor of safety issues many times but was unable to get things corrected. The only thing is, my employer did not know of these issues until after someone was hurt performing the operations. At that time the injured employee was released from employment. No one has responsibility for anything after workman's comp.

AA Neighbor

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

U-M faculty in LSA is mostly "temp" - untenured and underpaid. Department secretaries have more job security.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

That's just plain wrong. LSA has well over 800 tenure-track faculty FTE, and about 250 lecturers. And most of those lecturers have been with LSA for many years, so they can be hardly considered temp.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Temp jobs are crap. That is all.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

Gallop poll recently released indicated that 38% of small business owners that they have pulled back on hiring due to Obamacare. The act has already done severe damage to Americas economic recovery and will continue to drag. This is just the beginning, more jobs only due to hiring more employees to work less hours so as not to burden the employer to pay for medical insurance for 50 employees or more is not considered a growth workers want to see. Higher paying jobs and losing medical insurance is not a good sign.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

This is Ann Arbor. Way too many kool-aid drinkers. Hense all the negative votes.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:37 a.m.

Walker101, you are spot on. too bad the negative voters are ignorant of the facts.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Companies that offer their employees a generous health insurance policy often find it cheaper to keep a temporary worker a temporary worker. Temp agencies sometimes offer insurance, but is cost prohibitive to a low income workers. I have personally known of worker that have been kept as temps for three plus years.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 12:20 p.m.

I wonder how many of these jobs are really professional and how many have the likelihood of becoming any more than "permanent temporary" jobs. A recent story in Time Magazine profiles the growing use of temp workers who live in a near peonage situation, with no hope of advancement. It mentions a number of "temp towns" where workers are bussed in overcrowded vehicles (at a cost to them) to minimum-wage jobs and a desperate existence. Grand Rapids is mentioned as an example. Walmart is one of the big employers for such operations, which reminds me of why I boycott Walmart.


Sun, Jul 7, 2013 : 10:09 p.m.

It really depends on where the temp work is. If it is with the UofM Health system, the best you likely will get is a temp for life position, which means you keep getting brought back to do different jobs within the system, even after applying for full time employment at the employer. Other companies may hire temps to full time positions, but UofM seems very slow to do so. Heck UofM is very slow to hire anything within the health system, thus they had a Manpower posting for a doctor last fall or winter.