Temporary work with the biggest drop in sales since the financial crisis

More than 16 percent minus: Above all, the lower demand from the auto industry is causing problems for temporary work. Nevertheless, the industry is optimistic about the future.

At the BMW plant in Leipzig: Temporary agency work has many customers in the automotive industry.

AIn one industry, economic crises never leave their mark: temporary employment. As a flexibility buffer, it helps companies in an upswing to cushion order peaks – it suffers particularly in difficult economic phases. This was also evident in the Corona year 2020, in which the leading temporary employment agencies in Germany had to cope with the steepest decline in sales since the financial and economic crisis. The minus of the 25 largest personnel service providers amounts to 16.4 percent, according to a survey published on Tuesday by the market research company Lünendonk. For comparison: In the crisis year 2009, the largest temporary employment agencies lost almost 24 percent of their business.

The main reason for this development is the sharp drop in demand from the automotive industry. In 2019, she made up 19 percent of turnover in temporary work and was by far her most important customer – last year it was only 15 percent. Instead, temporary work did most of its business with companies in the transport and logistics sector. The need for additional staff has increased here as well as in (online) retail, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare sector. That shows how complex the temporary work market is, said market observer Thomas Ball von Lünendonk.

Hope for 2021

The greater demand for workers in some sectors supported the development of turnover in temporary employment somewhat, but the losses were nevertheless considerable – and that after turnover fell sharply in the previous year due to stricter regulation and the economic weakness in the automotive and mechanical engineering sectors was. The market leader Randstad from the Netherlands recorded a particularly large minus, which last year achieved 366 million euros less in sales than in the previous year and placed almost 10,000 fewer temporary workers. But also Adecco from Switzerland, the number two, and Manpower from the USA, the previous number three, suffered noticeably from the pandemic. Many personnel service providers have also sent some of their employees on short-time work, as the Lünendonk analysis shows, for which 83 companies were analyzed and surveyed.

Despite two difficult years in a row, the majority of temporary employment agencies are confident about the future. For 2021, they anticipate a sharp rise in sales, significantly more demand from the automotive industry and mechanical engineering, and a further sharp rise in demand in the area of ​​transport and logistics. It is noticeable that they expect that many helpers will be needed in production as well as in the warehouse and logistics segment – that is, temporary workers who perform rather simple tasks. The Federal Employment Agency assumes that, due to the transformation in industry, many helper positions will be lost, which could make it more difficult for the more than one million long-term unemployed in particular to re-enter the labor market.

Temporary work could be a bridge here, as current data from the Federal Employment Agency, which the Federal Employers’ Association of Personnel Service Providers has evaluated, shows. According to this, since September, more unemployed people have found employment subject to social security contributions in temporary work month after month than in the respective month of the previous year. Temporary work could, as it did after the great financial and economic crisis, prove to be an employment engine. However, the SPD and the Greens are relying on further regulation in the election year, and this is exactly what temporary work fears, according to the Lünendonk evaluation. The temporary employment agencies describe the existing regulation and a possible further tightening as well as the shortage of personnel as the biggest hurdles – even before the Corona crisis in third place.