Married with two young children, Eric Rangel of Hanover Park looked to a temp agency to help him find a job with advancement.
More than a year ago, he left behind a few odd jobs and landscaping to become an employee of Bloomingdale-based Synergy Staffing Inc., an agency that placed him as an assistant lead, or assistant supervisor, of workers at Fresh Express in Franklin Park.
Then last October, he moved up to be a lead with Niven Marketing Group in Carol Stream. He oversees workers who assemble displays used in Home Depot and other stores.
"I now have a better chance for growth," Rangel said.
Rangel is among the growing number of people seeking employment through temporary or contract agencies. They are often called W2 workers because they're employed and paid by the agency, yet work on-site at a company that contracts through the agency.
Roughly 2.7 million nationwide, including 148,900 in Illinois, obtained jobs through temporary agencies in November 2009. But just eight months before, about 2.4 million nationwide, including 138,000 in Illinois, worked through a temp agency, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those lower numbers last spring steadily climbed higher, which indicates that the recession may be easing as more companies begin to reconsider their needs, said Paul LaPorte, an economist with the bureau's Chicago office.
"When the economy is digging out of a recession, this is one area to look at," said LaPorte. "When this industry shows growth, that's an indication that employers will soon add permanent workers to the payroll."
Synergy Staffing, which was founded about two years ago, has since placed about 500 people in office and light industrial jobs. The firm gets about 50 applications a day, said Synergy President and CEO Mark A. Nelson.
"We've gone from zero to busting at the seams," Nelson said.
While the job fulfills a need for the company, it also allows the worker to build his or her skill set, Nelson said.
"It's good to try it out and sometimes it could lead to a full-time staff position with the company," Nelson said.
While the economy continues to recover, many other professions are seeking temporary workers to bridge a gap until the ranks can be filled more permanently, said Meade Kelley, director of temporary services for Accountemps and OfficeTeam, divisions of Robert Half International in Chicago.
"Temps come on more just before hiring happens," said Kelley. "It foreshadows more hiring, especially if a company reduced its work force too deeply before. That work has since been put aside and now the temps help to get it out."