Hiring of temporary workers accelerated last month, and without those gains U.S. employers would have shed payrolls for the second straight month in January.
Employment in temporary-help services rose by 80,900 in January from the prior month, a larger gain than the overall net increase in payrolls of 49,000, the Labor Department said Friday.
That sends a mixed signal about the labor market. “Using temporary labor is an indication that businesses are seeing more demand, but they’re not confident about how long that demand will last,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. “You’d obviously rather see permanent hiring, but it’s a sign permanent hiring is coming—if the vaccines are rolled out and the economy continues to improve.”
Similarly, the number of average hours worked in a week rose to 35 last month from 34.7 in December, a sign that businesses are asking existing staff to do more, another potential precursor to stronger hiring.
Here are other highlights from the January employment report: