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Staffing and Human Resources Consulting


The staffing and personnel management industry locates temporary, contract, and permanent workers to meet the hiring needs of corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and other employers. These workers range from secretaries and office clerks; to doctors, engineers, and accountants; to CEOs, CFOs, and corporate board members.

The industry has three main sectors: staffing agencies; recruiting firms (which include general recruiting firms and executive recruiting firms); and personnel consulting companies.

The U.S. staffing industry generated more than $148 billion in sales in 2018, and was projected to reach nearly $158 billion in 2020, according to the American Staffing Association (ASA)—a combined total of temporary and contract staffing and search and permanent-placement services. More than 3 million temporary and contract workers are employed by staffing companies during an average week. There are about 20,000 staffing and recruiting companies in the United States, operating 39,000 offices, according to ASA. The global staffing market generated approximately $490 billion in revenue in 2018, which was a 5 percent increase over the previous year, as reported by the research group Staffing Industry Analysts.

General recruiting firms, also known as contingency recruiters, often focus on providing workers in a particular industry such as technology or health care. They are paid by a company only if the candidate they recommend is hired. Contingency recruiters typically focus on recruiting entry-level to mid-level workers.

Executive recruiting firms (also known as headhunters, retained recruiters, and retained search firms) focus on recruiting for high-level positions such as CEOs. They are paid whether the candidate is hired or not. In 2018, revenue in the U.S. executive search and leadership industry was more than $15 billion, which was a 12 percent increase over the previous year's revenue, according to the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

Personnel consulting companies provide human resources solutions (consulting and management, wage and salary administration, employee benefits planning and administration, etc.) to companies. Professional employer organizations make up a large segment of this industry. According to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), a professional employer organization (PEO) relationship “involves a contractual allocation and sharing of employer responsibilities between the PEO and the client.” These firms typically provide services to small- and mid-sized businesses, although the number of large firms entering PEO relationships is growing. Gross revenue in the PEO industry currently averages between $136 billion and $156 billion, according to NAPEO.

A wide variety of permanent employees work in the staffing and personnel management industry, including recruitment, placement, and employment specialists and consultants; sales workers; job analysts, employer liaisons, and managers; and support staff such as secretaries, office clerks, researchers, Information Technology specialists, and accountants.

The staffing industry provides great opportunities for people who are seeking flexible work arrangements and schedules. It also provides them with the opportunity to “try out” various employers and get a “foot in the door” before eventually landing a full-time job. In fact, about 90 percent of staffing employees surveyed by the ASA report that working for staffing firms made them more employable.

The staffing and personnel management industry will continue to grow as demand for temporary and contract workers increases and more companies and other organizations utilize the services of recruiters to help them find the most qualified candidates.