Temporary hiring is considered a leading indicator of job growth or decline.
Staffing demands blossomed with the flowers and trees a year ago, only to see the promise of spring fade into a lackluster summer that left local unemployment essentially where it has been — above 10 percent.
Again this spring, from wood products to commercial and residential construction, labor is in demand.
"The way 2012 started off, we were thinking there would be a big improvement, and it was a little better but it just didn't sustain," said Chris Stoney, vice president for sales and marketing at Confident Staffing on Biddle Road. "The indication is pretty strong again this spring. It's not crazy-strong, but it's better than it has been. It looks like the growth we're having will sustain and not be going backwards like last spring; that's good news."
But there's more to it than that, said Jennifer Frank, staffing manager at Selectemp on Aero Way in Medford.
"We're seeing quite a bit of clerical demand — high-end and entry-level," Frank said.
Accounting, bookkeeping and other types of firms are asking for administrative support and receptionists.
"I think people are seeing a change in the economy and are feeling more comfortable about moving on to something new," Frank said. "Before, they were holding on, and it's definitely difficult to get a good-paying position in this valley in anything on the higher side of administrative levels."
Movement between jobs is indicative of an improving regional economy. When times are tough, Frank said, workers hunker down to wait out the financial storm.
"They're not willing to give up the stability and benefits until they are sure there is something to replace it," Frank said. "What we're seeing now is people are more comfortable about leaving, and businesses are more stable and have the budget to start replacing people they haven't replaced for some time."
This is the season when high school and college students are looking for summer jobs, creating a bulge in the workforce. But they aren't alone in their pursuit of employment.
"We're getting a fair number of retirees, people looking for part-time work, along with newer, younger employees," Frank said. "I've got people in transition, construction jobs and things that are more seasonal."
The preponderance of applicants are looking for stable, long-term employment, she said.
Back in 2005, that was the norm. But after the real estate bubble burst, followed by the credit crunch and Great Recession, employment and employers declined to the point where even modest gains look really good.
"We're doing far better than even a year ago," Stoney said. "2011 was not a good year, and even 2012 was an improvement. But we're in an economy that, in general, is perceptibly better. Housing in Southern Oregon is definitely making a comeback. We work with a lot of contractors and construction clients, and they have been a lot busier — everything from laying foundations to framing, sidewalls, painting and plumbing."
Even with noticeable improvements, there is still a worrisome undertow.
"We've been getting calls from a lot of moving companies," said Anjelica Perezchica of Labor Ready on Crater Lake Avenue. "Instead of people moving into town, it seems there are a lot moving out of town."
As tech-oriented companies sink their roots and begin to take off, however, the need for high-skilled workers increases, which means recruiting outside the region.
"As we see more high-tech industries developing here, it has created a demand for engineers," Stoney said.
"Those are the people who flock to the high-tech Meccas of Hillsboro and San Jose. Part of our job is to go recruit and convince them to move here. Those aren't 15-buck-an-hour jobs, those are 50-buck-an-hour jobs."