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The big disconnect

I sometimes read the business sections of other newspapers to get a sense at how the economy is progressing — or regressing — as the case may be, and I came across an interesting piece from the Associated Press.

It seems temporaries and contract workers are becoming the new norm when it comes to filling positions at big companies.

According to the Associated Press article, temporary workers, contract workers and consultants currently number almost 17 million people, or about 12 percent of the entire labor force.

That number has increased more than 50 percent since the recession ended almost four years ago, with temporary workers numbering almost 2.7 million people.

Much of the reason for the switch to temporary workers is the savings it represents for employers, because “temp” workers receive lower pay and fewer if any benefits.

The uncertain economy and uncertainties surrounding Obamacare are also to blame for the increase in temporary hiring, the article continued.

I chose the temporary route between full-time jobs when I was still living in Richmond, so I can speak to the insecurity it represents.

Working in the mailroom at the Virginia Division of Tourism was a fun job, if not tedious at times, and I sometimes felt like a replacement trying to fill the shoes of a front-line soldier in World War II.

I met a wide variety of people while packing maps and brochures advertising Virginia was for lovers, and a few of them actually were offered full-time employment after several months of working as temporaries.

I was on the outside looking in as far as one of those opportunities was concerned, but things worked out for me in the end.

Some economists think this trend represents a growing disconnect between firms and workers, and it can result, in my opinion, in less motivation by workers to do the best job possible.

As someone who works for a family business, I’m a bit fretted to see this trend, although I can understand it on some levels.

The “mom and pop” stores where everyone knew one another and supported one another, and where each person knew where he or she stood, is fast becoming a thing of the past.

“Big box” retailers have their place, but I try and support the locally owned businesses if I can.

Staying “connected” is where it’s at, and that’s the foundation of a strong community.