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What temporary workers earn: findings from new BLS survey.

Harry B. Williams is a labor economist in the Division of Occupational Pay and Employee Benefit Levels, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Study of firms supplying temporary help to other businesses reveals sharp variations in pay rates, as well as in the proportions of 'temps' offered vacation pay and other benfits

In recent years, many businesses have experienced a growing need to fill short-term job assignments, replacing regular employees who are absent because of illness, vacation, or other reasons. At the same time, many individuals, including students and recent labor market entrants and reentrants, have sought part-time or intermittent work thatdoes not involve a long-term commitment to a single employer. These dual needs have resulted in massive growth for the Nation's temporary help supply services firms which match short-term job requests with the available pool of temporary workers or "temps." These workers are supervised by the client firm but are on the payroll of the temporary help organization.

Until recently, little was known about the pay and benefits offered by these firms. In September 1987, the Bureau of Labor Statistics began its first study of occupational pay and employee benefit provisions in the temporary help supply services industry. The survey covered more than 600,000 workers and revealed wide variations in pay rates, reflecting the diversity of occupations, skill levels, and assignments reported.' Employees studied included both temporary workers and the relatively small number of permanent full-time employees who manage and administer day-to-day operations of the firms in the industry.

The temporary work force earned an average of $6.42 an hour in September 1987. 2(See table 1.) Pay for individual temps ranged from the Federal minimum wage of $3.35 an hour to $20 an hour or more. 3

The survey developed earnings data for eight major occupational groups selected to represent the diversified assignments and wage levels of temporary workers. Group averages ranged from $4.65 an hour for operators, fabricators, and laborers to $16.96 for professional specialty occupations, which included engineers and registered nurses. Administrative support occupations, including clerical-the largest group, with 328,828 workers-averaged $6.46 an hour.

Earnings data were tabulated for almost 100 individual job classifications selected to represent the wide range of occupations, pay, and levels of responsibility associated with temporary workers. Among the classifications for which data could be published, engineers had the highest average rate-$24.74 an hour. Computer systems analysts and scientists averaged $18.17, the second highest job average published; computer programmers followed with $15.96.

In the medical field, registered professional nurses averaged $14.99 an hour, but some earned $25 or more. Licensed practical nurses averaged $10.03 an hour, about $3 more than clinical laboratory technologists and technicians ($7.11) and $4.50 more than nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants.

General office clerks, the most numerous of the jobs studied, averaged $5.11 an hour. This compared with $5.97 for typists, $6.11 for data entry keyers, $7.79 for executive secretaries, and $9.46 for word processors-an occupation currently in heavy demand.

Among the blue-collar jobs, construction laborers averaged $3.72 an hour. Pay levels for assemblers, material handlers, and nonconstruction laborers ranged between $4 and $5.

Earnings also were estimated separately for temporary workers employed in all large metropolitan areas combined, that is, all areas with at least I million inhabitants (based on the 1980 census). The 384,037 temporary workers in these large areas averaged $6.82 an hour-6 percent more than the $6.42 average recorded in the nationwide survey. This pattern usually held for occupational pay comparisons as well, with the average differences generally ranging up to 10 percent in favor of the large areas.

Local wage rates for temps varied widely around the nationwide average. In the 26 areas studied separately, the overall average for temporary workers ranged from $5.20 in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood-Pompano Beach to $9.91 in Boston.

The industry's permanent full-time staff includes office managers, service coordinators, sales representatives, and clerical support workers. Office managers averaged $14.21 an hour, compared with $11.50 for business services sales representatives, $8.58 for accounting clerks, and $7.11 for receptionists (table 2).

Nearly three-fifths of the permanent full-time staff were coordinators and sales representatives. Service coordinators, whose primary responsibilities are to interview, hire, and place temporary workers with client firms, averaged $9.30 an hour. Coordinators-sales representatives, who regularly split their duties between the hiring and placing of temporary workers and the search for prospective clients, averaged $9.61. As a group, about one-fourth of the coordinators and sales representatives earned at least part of their pay through incentives, such as bonuses and commissions.

Within individual areas, pay for full-time permanent staff usually averaged between $9 and $11 an hour. The New York metropolitan area topped the averages with $13.02, while the Fort Lauderdale area was lowest at $8.49. Employee benefits

The survey developed information on the incidence of selected benefit provisions for the industry's temporary workers and full-time permanent staff. As in other industries, workers had to meet a variety of requirements to become eligible for paid leave, health care, and other benefits. The study determined proportions of workers employed by establishments providing specified benefit plans, but did not ascertain the proportions who had achieved the minimum requirements to be eligible to receive the benefits. Because of their intermittent work schedules, temporaries often have more difficulty than permanent staff in meeting eligibility requirements related to length of service.

Where available to temps, eligibility for paid holidays and vacation benefits generally required a specified number of hours worked (for example, 1,000 or 1,500 hours). Workers often were allowed up to 1 year to accumulate these hours. Establishments providing paid holidays, typically 6 days annually, employed about two-fifths of the temporary workers; those providing vacation pay employed nearly three-fourths of these workers. Most temps could qualify for 1 week of vacation pay if they worked 1,500 hours within a 1 -year period; one-fifth could qualify for 2 weeks after working 2,000 hours.

Health insurance eligibility requirements for temps almost always included a qualifying period, specified in hours, days, or weeks of work. For example, an individual may be required to work a specified number of hours to qualify for health insurance and to work a minimum number of hours per month thereafter to maintain coverage. Such requirements may vary by benefit within a single establishment.

About one-fourth of the temporary workers were in establishments paying at least part of the cost of hospitalization, surgical, medical, and major medical insurance plans; most of these workers could qualify for initial coverage by working fewer than 500 hours. One-fifth were in establishments providing life insurance.

Three-fifths of the temps could earn referral bonuses for recommending new hires who sign on and work for a specified period of time. Slightly more than half of the temps were in establishments providing job training, and nctsarly one-fourth were in establishments providing free transportation or cash allowances for traveling to and from the job site. Child care and credit union membership were rarely available, applying to 2 percent and 5 percent of the temporary work force.

Employee benefit plans for permanent workers resembled those offered to workers in other industries. Paid holidays and paid vacations were available to virtually all of the permanent workers in temporary help supply establishments. Paid holiday provisions were usually 6 to 8 days, annually. Typical vacation provisions were 2 weeks of vacation pay after 1 year of service, 3 weeks after 5 years, and 3 or 4 weeks after 15 years or more.

Almost all of the permanent workers were offered employer-sponsored health benefit plans including hospitalization, surgical, medical, and major medical coverage. Seven-eighths were offered life insurance; the same proportion had short-term disability protection. Seven-tenths had accidental death and dismemberment insurance and two-thirds had dental care available. These plans were usually financed jointly by the employer and employee. However, retirement plans, covering slightly more than half of the permanent workers, were usually financed by the employer.

The survey covered establishments with 50 workers or more primarily engaged in supplying temporary help, except agricultural, on a contract basis to other businesses as defined in the 1972 Standard Industrial Classification Manual, prepared by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.


1 Estimates of the number of workers are intended as a general guide to the size and composition of the industry's labor force, rather than as precise measures of employment. The study excluded workers 'in establishments employing fewer than 50 workers and establishments in Alaska and Hawaii. The estimate of employment in the industry differs from other statistical sources, such as, the Bureau's Current Employment Survey series, largely because of the survey's design.

2 Excludes premium pay for overtime and for work on weekends, holidays, and late shifts. Incentive payments and cost-of-living increases, where found, were included as part of the workers' regular pay. Excluded were performance bonuses and lump-sum payments, such as profit-sharing payments, Christmas or yearend bonuses, and other nonproduction bonuses.

3 A comprehensive report on the survey findings, Industry Wage Survey: Temporary Help Supply, September 1987 (Bulletin 2313), may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, DC 20402, or from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Publication Sales Center, P.O. Box 2145, Chicago, IL 60690.
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Title Annotation:Bureau of Labor statistics
Author:Williams, Harry B.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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