September 3, 2013

High demand for temp jobs in Maine has mixed meaning

Businesses are hiring workers because they are hopeful but not confident about the economy, experts say.

By J. Craig Anderson
Staff Writer

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Margaret Tibbetts, left, a Bonney Staffing Center supervisor, interviews Marlanda Wing of Westbrook during a recent job fair.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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If a particular temp stands out as an excellent potential employee, the company can always hire that person on a permanent basis, she said.

Another benefit is that quality temp agencies perform all the due diligence, vetting and skills testing of workers before sending them to an employer, Meyaard said.

"A temp agency has their own reputation on the line, so they want to make sure they are bringing you qualified workers," she said.

Multiple factors likely are contributing to Maine's increase in temp agency employment, said Charles Colgan, professor of public policy and management at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.

The first factor has to do with economic recovery, he said. It is typical during periods of economic recovery for employers to use temp workers, because they are reluctant to commit to hiring permanent employees.

In that way, increased use of temps in the workforce bodes well for the economic future, Colgan said.

"Eventually, a lot of those temp jobs will get converted into permanent jobs," he said.

The second factor is a national trend toward using more temps on a long-term basis because they are cheaper than permanent employees, Colgan said.

Still, he said, it will take a couple more years of economic recovery to know whether that trend will last.

A third factor could be having an impact in Maine, he said: the state's aging population.

Older residents are likely to sign up with a temp agency for part-time or temporary work in order to supplement their retirement income or have something to do.

Colgan said it's possible that a provision of the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to offer health insurance to temps could have a chilling effect on the use of temp agencies, but that provision has been delayed a year until 2015.

Meanwhile, Walsh said Maine's increase in temp work is a mixed blessing.

"It's great for the employers and for the temp agencies, but not necessarily good for the temporary employees," she said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

Correction: This article was updated at 12:32 p.m., Sept. 3, 2013, to correct the spelling of the last name of Idexx Laboratories Director of Worldwide Talent Acquisition Ann Marie Meyaard.

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