Jobless turning to short-term positions to fill void
GARFIELD COUNTY, Colorado ” It’s a typical Monday morning at the Mountain Temp Services office in Carbondale, where about two dozen Latino day laborers bide their time in the waiting room in hopes that a job will come calling.
It’s not an unusual sight this year ” or any year, for that matter. What’s different is that in years past most, if not all, would be farmed out to a variety of odd jobs, from digging ditches to shoveling snow to the more skilled construction jobs.
This day, though, with the downturn in the economy and a major slowdown locally in construction activity, most will sit and wait and eventually be turned away empty-handed.
“You’d never see this many people sitting in the office this time of the morning a couple of years ago,” said Scott Davis, co-owner of Mountain Temp, which also has locations in Rifle, Aspen, Vail, Dillon and Steamboat Springs.
“We would have been happy to have this many people here one or two years ago. There weren’t enough workers to fill all the jobs we had available,” he said.
Add to the mix a growing number of unemployed skilled professionals who are turning to temporary employment services for something, anything, to help make ends meet.
“We are certainly seeing more people come in, and more people with experience and skilled capabilities, which is good for us,” Davis said.
Interestingly enough, there are a few positions for those types of workers, he said.
“I would compare it to what happened after 9/11,” Davis said of the economic slump following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. “We expected a big hit, but our sales actually went up then, and I expect we’ll see the same thing this time.”
Oftentimes, when companies have to lay off permanent staff in a down economy, the need for whatever services those employees provided may diminish, but it doesn’t go away completely.
“There’s still a job to be done, and we try to position ourselves to fill that need,” Davis said. “In that sense it generates some more business for us, because our clients still need help to get jobs done.”
Basalt-based Labor Source also has multiple locations, including Glenwood Springs, Aspen, Parachute and, just recently, a new office in Grand Junction.
“We just expanded our operation into Grand Junction, with the feeling that we were seeing more applicants from that area anyway,” said Labor Source CEO John Van Benthuysen.
“If you have a company that has had to make layoffs, they didn’t lay off the bookkeeper because they didn’t need bookkeeping,” he said. “There is still that need on some level.”
Temp agencies can also be useful to employers when the economy begins to improve, and companies start looking to rehire.
Van Benthuysen said there are opportunities in a down economic climate for the temp business, because even if the jobs are not there now, they’re likely going to be there in the future.
And when companies begin looking to staff back up, temp agencies are a good place to shop around for the ideal employee, he said.
“We have several companies that do that with us, particularly with clerical positions. We can send them somebody to try out for a while,” he said. Oftentimes that can lead to a permanent job for someone.”
The demographic of the typical day laborer has changed too, Van Benthuysen said.
“It’s kind of tough right now,” he said. “We get guys here who were a gifted, loyal employee for someone until they got laid off. We ask what they’re looking for, and they’ll say ‘anything.’
“The average drifter who wanders into temp agencies across the country, they are becoming a strong minority,” he added. “The higher quality, higher valued employee is becoming very common.”
Bill Thoennes, public affairs director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Workforce Centers, said temp agencies can be an option for someone looking to make ends meet in the interim. But that doesn’t preclude the need for workers to market themselves for a permanent job.
“For someone who has been unemployed for a while and is desperate to get food on the table, the temp position is more of a standby,” Thoennes said. “The local workforce center is where you go to get back full time into the workplace.
“In good economic times, people are sometimes just interested in working temp jobs as something to get them by for a while,” he added. “But in tough times, the temp job is just one more resource you can turn to.”
Contact John Stroud: 384-9160
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