Keeping tabs on the challenges staffing suppliers face can not only help contingent workforce program managers find opportunities but also assist in partnering with staffing suppliers for the success of your program. Published every two months, Staffing Industry Analysts’ US Staffing Industry Pulse Survey Report provides insights into the staffing suppliers’ environment, how it affects their organizations and what they should prepare for.

“This report helps to inform contingent workforce buyers,” says Matt Norton, SIA’s workforce solutions research director. “Being an educated buyer is an absolute benefit to your organization and your CW program and can help you educate internal stakeholders on market trends or challenges. It can also help you be a better partner for your providers.”

Provider Landscape

Bill rates. The survey featured in the July 2023 Selected Highlights report shed some light on bill rates. A net -4% of staffing firms reported an increasing trend in bill rates over the last three months, down from 2% in the prior survey; however, the net percentage of staffing firms expecting an increasing trend in the next six months jumped to 18% in the July report from 5% in May.

Labor market balance. Average recruiting difficulty increased to 3.11 in June’s survey from 3.07 in May’s report (on a scale of 1 to 5), while average sales difficulty increased to 3.40 from 3.34. Locum tenens staffing providers reported the highest recruiting difficulty at 3.78. Within SIA’s tracking period, average sales difficulty is at its highest historical level outside of the beginning of the pandemic.

New orders. The survey found new orders decreased a net 13% in the last three months, an improvement from a net decrease of 32% reported in the previous survey for the May report. In addition, a net 47% of staffing firms surveyed for July’s report expect an increasing trend in the next six months, up from 19% who expected an increasing trend in the previous survey.

“While past three-month trends have shown a net deceleration in new orders in many segments and bill rates in healthcare segments, the next six-month expectations are significantly stronger across most staffing segments,” says Curtis Starkey, a senior research analyst at SIA and author of the report. “This could be hopeful optimism, but it is also a sign that companies are seeing strength at the end of the second quarter that they expect will power revenue growth in the second half of the year.”

Revenue. Overall, spending on temporary workers through US staffing firms fell by a median 6% year over year in June among staffing firms participating in the Pulse survey, down from a 2% decrease in April. However, the aggregate decrease in their US temporary staffing revenue was 13%, illustrating the recent phenomenon of larger companies reporting more negative growth than smaller companies; in June, small company staffing revenue was down a median 1% year over year, medium company revenue was down 5% and large company revenue was down 15%.

Locum tenens again posted the strongest median revenue growth at 11%; allied healthcare and IT staffing also reported annual growth at 4% and 1%, respectively. On the flip side, the biggest declines were seen in the travel nurse staffing segment, down 21%; per diem nursing, down 14%; and industrial, down 5%.

Training Temporary Workers

The most recent Pulse survey also queried participants about the services and programs their firm provides — or plans to provide — to billable associates on assignment or to clients’ employees.

“The report illustrates the awareness that staffing firms have regarding training temporary workers,” Norton says. “The development of these training initiatives can play a pivotal role in alleviating some of the acute skill shortages that are still apparent in the market. The expansion of such programs would be a significant benefit to client organizations looking to fill roles in a tight labor market.”

Overall, the most common response was third-party educational content, with 34% of respondents currently providing such access and another 20% expecting to do so within two years. Only 25% do not plan to implement such content, and 11% were not aware of the option.

Certification/credentialing is in place at 29% of participating companies and job coaching at 28%.

Services and programs were in place at a higher rate amongst large and at commercial staffing companies.

The survey also asked, “As a provider of staffing solutions, how do you and/or your company view your role in addressing the skills gap in today’s labor market?”

Responses included:

“As a provider of talent to our partners, we would be doing them a disservice if we didn’t look into any and all avenues that could help in stemming the talent gap. If we want to be viewed as a true partner, we are responsible for offering solutions (not just résumés).” – IT staffing firm

“It’s vital that staffing firms lead the way in this arena. If we don’t, we will get lost in the process and could make ourselves extinct by not paying attention to the changing landscape. We need to be more than just ‘staffing.’” – Commercial staffing firm

“Bringing the skills gap to the attention of clinicians and showing them a path forward to upskill while not compromising patient care. This will take a collaborative approach with client facilities, educators and MSP partners to best help healthcare as a whole.” – Healthcare staffing firm

The survey for SIA’s July Pulse Report included responses from 171 staffing firms that conduct business in the US. Selected highlights of the July 2023 Pulse Report are available for download to CWS Council members.