Maintaining strong relationships with providers is key for contingent workforce professionals seeking to secure the best talent, and understanding their business environment and the challenges they may face is key to getting the best talent and preparing for potential challenges or opportunities.  

Published every other month, SIA’s US Staffing Industry Pulse Survey Report provides the contingent workforce buyer with insight into the supplier’s environment and how it affects them. This article discusses results from the March 2024 Update report, which is based on a survey of 172 participating staffing firms. 

“This report helps to inform contingent workforce buyers,” says Matt Norton, workforce solutions research director at Staffing Industry Analysts. “Understanding the opportunities and the challenges that your staffing partners have allows you to be a more educated buyer and better partner. This benefits not only the program and organization but also the staffing partners and contingent workers. The report highlights an increase in bill rates over the past three months, up from a 1% decline for the three months leading up to January, with staffing firms anticipating an increase in new orders in the next six months.” 

Provider Landscape 

Bill rates. The report offers some insight into bill rates and new orders. A net 4% of staffing firms reported an increasing trend in bill rates over the last three months, up from a 1% decline in the prior survey for the January 2024 report; additionally, the net percentage of staffing firms expecting an increasing trend in the next six months edged up to 18% in the March report from 17% in January. 

New orders. The survey found new orders increased a net 7% in the last three months, up from a net decrease of 5% reported in the previous survey for the January report; a net 58% of staffing firms surveyed for March’s report expect an increasing trend in the next six months, up from 53% in the previous survey. 

Labor market balance. Average sales difficulty increased to 3.56 in the March survey from 3.45 in January (on a scale of 1 to 5), and average recruiting difficulty decreased to 2.94 from 3.08, with the recruiting minus sales difficulty remaining negative. This indicates an unusually loose labor market (after a period in which it was historically tight), according to the report. 

Spend on temp labor. Overall, spending on temporary workers through US staffing firms fell by a median 5% year over year in February among staffing firms participating in the Pulse survey, in line with the 5% decrease in December 2023. The aggregate decrease in their US temporary staffing revenue was 13% in February compared to a 10% decline in December. Results continue to illustrate the recent phenomenon of larger companies reporting more negative growth than smaller companies; in February, staffing revenue among small providers was up a median 7% year over year, midsize company revenue declined 5% and large company revenue was down 8%. 

Locum tenens posted the only positive median revenue growth at 15%. Growth was flat in eight segments: office/clerical, IT, allied healthcare, finance/accounting, engineering, legal, life sciences and engineering. Direct hire revenue was also flat year over year. On the flip side, the travel nurse staffing segment once again posted the largest decline, down 16%, followed by per diem nursing and industrial, down 10% and 7%, respectively. 

Technology Spending  

The most recent Pulse survey also queried participants about their plans for 2024 talent acquisition technology spending as well as a breakdown of their 2023 spending/investment in various technology categories. Overall, 45% of companies surveyed plan to increase spending on talent acquisition technology per internal employee in 2024 compared to just 10% that plan to decrease spending. Sourcing automation was the talent acquisition technology on which most spending was increased in 2023, with 34% of respondents reporting increased spending in this category.  

Sourcing automation was the talent acquisition technology on which most spending was increased in 2023, with 34% of respondents reporting increased spending in this category. Candidate engagement technology recorded the highest activity, with 89% either purchasing significant products/services in the category, testing/piloting new products/services or increasing spending. 

By skill segment, IT staffing firms reported the lowest percentages of purchasing significant new products, while industrial and travel nursing staffing firms had comparably higher percentages. 

The survey for SIA’s most recent Pulse Report included responses from 172 staffing firms that conduct business in the US. Selected highlights of the March 2024 Pulse Report are available for download to CWS Council members.