BERKELEY -- The number of temporary workers is on the rise in California, and temps are far more likely than permanent employees to receive government aid or live in poverty, a UC Berkeley study released Tuesday shows.

At the end of 2010 -- the most recent year for which complete information is available -- California had 282,000 temporary employees, the UC Berkeley study found. That was up 2.2 percent from the 276,000 temporary workers in the state at the end of 2009.

Temporary workers made a median wage of $13.72 an hour, 28 percent less than the $19.13 median wage of permanent employees, according to the report, which was authored Miranda Dietz, a research data analyst for the university's Center for Labor Research and Education.

"This trend raises some social concerns," Dietz said. "Temp workers may need to rely more on the safety net. And that is at a time when that safety net is less available from the state of California."

Temp workers were twice as likely as non-temps to live in poverty, receive food stamps and be on Medicaid, the study found.

Temporary workers are typically found in blue-collar positions such as manufacturing, landscaping, housekeeping or data entry jobs. But they also can be found in white collar employment such as nursing, accounting and computer programming, the study found.

In California, 28 percent of the temporary employees at the end of 2010 were office and administrative workers. The next largest temp workers category was transportation and material moving, at 21 percent.


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"Companies right now prefer to hire temporary workers because that is a hedge in case demand for their products and services doesn't pick up enough," said Jon Haveman, chief economist with the Bay Area Council's Economic Institute.

The rise of the temporary workforce has weakened the bond between workers and their places of employment, according to the UC Berkeley report.

"Temps are not employees of the company where they are working, they are employees of the staffing services agency that handles them," Dietz noted.

The study found that 54.2 percent of temporary workers are female, whereas 46.3 percent of permanent employees are women. An estimated 65 percent of temporary workers are nonwhite or Hispanic, while 55.6 percent of permanent workers are nonwhite or Hispanic.

The UC research also found that temporary workers are less likely than their permanent counterparts to have benefits.

"It's a very tough time to be a temporary worker in California," said Scott Anderson, chief economist with San Francisco-based Bank of the West. "Income for temp workers can really vary. Their hours are variable. It's very difficult for them."

Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.