SIA’s July 2020 Pulse Survey Report queried staffing providers about in-demand job titles, emerging new job titles and their use of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s small business loans. The survey is a useful tool to help the contingent workforce buyer understand the supplier’s environment and how it affects them downstream.

It asked the providers to list job titles showing high demand in June and July, as well as new job titles with emerging demand. Here are some of the noted trends.

Healthcare. More than one-third of the responses regarding in-demand jobs in healthcare staffing mentioned intensive care unit experts. Responses for new job titles varied widely but did mention respiratory therapists — understandable since Covid-19 is shown to have a strong impact on the lungs.

Commercial. Job titles showing the highest demand include warehouse workers and forklift/machine operators. Meanwhile, almost half of the responses for new job titles in the sector included Covid-specific jobs such as contact tracers, Covid-19 screeners, temperature takers, etc.

IT. Survey respondents cited software developers as the job title with the highest demand while cybersecurity experts garnered the most responses for new job title.

Other professional or multi-segment. Senior accountants are a role to keep an eye on for both in-demand and new job title.

The July Pulse Report also provides information on sales and recruiting difficulty, which can provide contingent workforce program managers with a glimpse into what competition for talent acquisition may look like. It found a net 22% of staffing firms reported a decreasing trend in new orders over the last three months, an improvement from 63% in last month’s survey; in addition, a net 68% expect an increasing trend in the next six months.

Reflecting the ongoing pandemic, average sales difficulty remained higher than average recruiting difficulty for the fourth consecutive month. However, the two showed convergence as average sales difficulty declined to 3.41 from 3.80 (on a scale of one to five) and recruiting difficulty increased to 3.22 from 3.00.

The survey also offers some insight into bill rates and new orders. A net 5% of firms reported an increasing trend in bill rates over the last three months and a net 12% expect an increasing trend in the next six months. In addition, 22% of firms reported a decreasing trend in new orders over the last three months, a jump from last month’s net 63% decreasing trend; further, a net 68% expect an increasing trend in the next six months.

CARES Act: Who Benefits?

The survey asked about loans provided via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which include Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses.

Of the 167 survey participants, 105 applied for CARES Act loans, and 97% of these firms received some money; 76% included temps on assignment in their payroll amount.

In fact, staffing firms were among the biggest beneficiaries of the PPP, according to a report from ProPublica, which alleges that many may have turned the government loans into profits. The organization reported 11,000 staffing firms took in a total of between $3.6 billion and $7.9 billion with about 4,600 of those getting more than $150,000 each.

It reported staffing firms registered external workers under the plan. “That means many temp companies were able to double dip, getting paid twice for the same worker, once by the client and then again by taxpayers,” according to the report. However, the move appears legal.

“Staffing agencies are considered common law employers of the temporary and contract workers they assign to clients under long-standing IRS guidance and court rulings,” Edward Lenz, senior counsel for the American Staffing Association, told ProPublica. “Hence, they are employers for PPP purposes, just as they are for purposes of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance mandate and many other laws.”

Provider Landscape

With or without assistance loans, staffing firms continue to face challenges amid Covid-19. In the July report, survey respondents reported a median 19% year-over-year decline in their US temporary staffing revenue in June, in line with the reported 18% decline in May.

The largest declines were reported in the industrial segment, down a median 25% year over year, and in office/clerical, down 22%.

Healthcare staffing was a bright spot in May, but in June travel nursing was the only healthcare segment recording positive growth, with median year-over-year growth of 14%. Life sciences reported 3% year-over-year growth.

All other staffing skill segments reported revenue declines in June.

Competition from Bolstered Benefits

In open-ended comments, several survey respondents mentioned the additional $600 weekly unemployment benefit as a hindrance to recruitment, particularly in the commercial sector.

“Due to existing and new clients having increased staffing demand and the adverse impact of the unemployment stimulus, we are experiencing increases in unfilled orders,” noted a commercial staffing provider.

“Unemployment benefits are causing some employees to decline job offers,” stated another in the same segment. “Clients are not always willing to pay competitive rates which have gone up due to large companies offering signing bonuses and higher hourly wages during coronavirus.”

And one said the federal government needs to end the $600 additional unemployment assistance as it is “hurting recruiting”; another said it is “hopeful” that it will be easier to fill orders when the $600 unemployment stipend ends.

The data for the most recent report was collected this month from 167 staffing companies. The survey is normally conducted bimonthly, and typically focuses on revenue and other financial data. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, its frequency was increased to monthly.

CWS Council members can download the July Pulse Survey Selected Findings report here.