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Rise in Temp Workers Leads To Sharp Fall in Job Security

By James Risen
Los Angeles Times

The hiring of temporary and part-time workers without health benefits has far outpaced the rate of growth in full-time employment during the nation's fledgling economic recovery, leading to a sharp decrease in job security in the United States, the Clinton administration said yesterday.

The Economic Report of the President, released by the White House yesterday, said part-time employment has grown 6.4 percent in the last three years, while full-time payrolls have increased by just 1.7 percent. At the same time, the percentage of the work force covered by health care benefits is declining after rising steadily for decades.

The administration also said that, contrary to popular belief, the recession of the early 1990s was not dominated by white-collar layoffs. Rather, blue-collar workers suffered much more harshly than professionals and other office workers.

Middle-class anxiety was a hot topic during the 1992 election, and the perception among voters that this recession was different and much worse than other post-World War II downturns helped propel President Clinton into the White House. For the first time, big corporations no longer seemed like safe havens for middle managers.

But the administration found that the white collar jobless rate was just 3.2 percent in 1992, far less than the 9.9 percent rate for factory workers during the same election year.

"In fact, as in the past, the unemployment rate among white-collar workers has been significantly below that of blue-collar workers in the most recent recession and recovery," the report stated.

Furthermore, the report found, joblessness among blacks is worsening, leading to new concerns that the nation's unemployment rate will remain at relatively high levels indefinitely. There are "increasing disparities between black and white rates of both employment and unemployment, which are linked to equally disturbing changes in the distribution of income and job security," the report said.

Long-term unemployment in America has been increasing, largely because of the growing rate of long-term joblessness among black men, the report said. The average unemployment rate over the last 23 years has risen 3.5 percent for blacks but only 1.5 percent for whites.

But the 398-page report, the first issued by the Clinton administration, was generally upbeat about the economic outlook and was dominated by lengthy explanations of how the administration's economic policies sparked the current recovery. The report included the official White House forecast that the economy will grow at a rate of 3.1 percent in 1994 and 2.8 percent in 1995. Those predictions are almost identical to most leading private estimates.

Republicans quickly complained that Clinton was trying to take credit for an upswing in the economy that was under way well before the Democrats took control of the White House.

"In considering President Clinton's gusher of praise for his economic record today, we should remember that no modern president's economic program has required less than 18 months to have an impact on the economy," said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996.

The report found that the growth of the temporary help industry, through companies like Manpower Inc., is a new sign of the increasing importance of part-time employment in the economy. Since the early 1970s, the temporary help industry -- which places part-time office workers and other day laborers -- has grown from less than one-third of 1 percent of total employment to 1.3 percent of the work force today. Now, nearly 3 percent of all American workers hold jobs on a "contingent" day-to-day basis, the report found.