Temporary jobs becoming a permanent fixture

Hiring is exploding in the one corner of the U.S. economy where few want to be hired: temporary work.

From Wal-Mart to General Motors to PepsiCo, companies are increasingly turning to temps and to a much larger universe of freelancers, contract workers and consultants. Combined, these workers number nearly 17 million people who have only tenuous ties to the companies that pay them — about 12% of everyone with a job.

Hiring is always healthy for an economy. Yet the rise in temp and contract work shows that many employers aren’t willing to hire for the long run.

The number of temps has jumped more than 50% since the recession ended four years ago to nearly 2.7 million — the most on government records dating to 1990. In no other sector has hiring come close.

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