As we watch asset classes of almost every stripe reach astonishing heights, it seems as if nothing has gone according to intuition and logic following the initial strike of the novel coronavirus. But one of the most conspicuous examples of almost nonsensical circumstances is the labor market. Simply, many industries are suffering from a labor shortage, which doesn’t seem to support the narrative for staffing stocks to buy.
Now, some of the rumblings within the labor market is understandable. For instance, we’re currently working through the global supply chain crisis, a headwind that has impacted everything from used car prices to how we celebrated Halloween a few weeks back. Additionally, a pivotal factor as to why supply chains haven’t normalized is the shortage of truck drivers. It’s a tough job that fewer young people want to do, again impeding the case for staffing stocks to buy.
However, it’s not just truck drivers and people refusing to return to less-than-satisfying occupations. Indeed, the global health crisis has forced many of us to reflect on what’s truly important in life. As you might imagine, typing stuff on a spreadsheet for eight hours a day ranks low among current priorities. Thus, while prior recessions may have boosted staffing stocks to buy because of critical demand, you’re just not seeing that circumstance play out right now.
However, that will likely change — and perhaps soon. Certainly, the U.S. stock of money saved during the pandemic — $2.7 trillion’s worth per a Bloomberg report — will keep many households afloat that haven’t yet returned to the workforce. But a fixed savings rate will decline awfully quickly now that the federal government has taken away the punch bowl. Eventually, staffing stocks to buy will become a thing again.
Also, keep in mind the presently soaring inflation rate. Everything has gone up in price, particularly energy prices, which will have a direct impact on the cost of living for millions of consumers. That means those savings will incrementally start to lose their purchasing power, meaning that the so-called Great Resignation will likely turn into the Great Hire. If so, consider these staffing stocks to buy for your portfolio.
- Robert Half International (NYSE:RHI)
- Randstad (OTCMKTS:RANJY)
- Kelly Services (NASDAQ:KELYA)
- Persol Holdings (OTCMKTS:TEMPF)
- Kforce (NASDAQ:KFRC)
- Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK)
- Adecco Group (OTCMKTS:AHEXY)
Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves that money doesn’t grow on trees. Sure, our economy looks wonderful given the circumstances. However, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that corporate debt has collectively ballooned to $11 trillion. Our economy may be much more fragile than advertised, which means panicked worker bees could one day boost staffing stocks to buy.
Staffing Stocks to Buy: Robert Half International (RHI)
Citing data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Harvard Business Review mentioned that four million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. Such high-level stats embolden mainstream headlines that have been replete with stories about the Great Resignation, also called the Big Quit among some circles. With so many folks turning in their two-week notices, you wouldn’t expect much from staffing stocks to buy.
Well, it depends on which investment opportunities you’re talking about. If the subject is Robert Half International, it’s clearly not suffering from a shortage of clients.
Year-to-date (YTD), RHI finds itself up 89%, one of the top performers among staffing stocks to buy. Moreover, it’s been a consistent run, meaning that it didn’t receive all its gains in one particular month. For instance, during the trailing half-year period, RHI has swung higher by 31%.
Moreover, in the first three quarters of this year, Robert Half generated $4.7 billion in revenue. This means that it only needs a modest quarter to put it at level with 2019’s banner sales year.
Typically, I like to keep over-the-counter (OTC) plays lower on these lists unless the subject matter is speculative trades. In most cases, securities traded in the OTC market feature low volume and wide spreads, making them not ideal for retail buy-and-hold investors. However, you’ll often find international blue chips list their shares this way for various reasons, including avoiding fees associated with inclusion in major exchanges.
And with staffing stocks to buy, I have no choice but to rank Randstad highly. Sure, it’s an OTC play for us Americans. But based on 2019 revenue, Randstad is the biggest name in this industry. Headquartered in the Netherlands, RANJY provides ample exposure to multiple job markets once the mass-scale quitting turns into job hunting — or even begging.
Yes, the Great Resignation is happening in Europe — heck, a Washington Post article in October mentioned that the self-pink slipping has gone global. It’s a game of chicken. And while my sympathies lie with the worker, I’m afraid big business is going to win this contest.
Therefore, I like my chances with RANJY even though it might not be the most popular choice.
Staffing Stocks to Buy: Kelly Services (KELYA)
Many staffing stocks to buy have enjoyed major success this year as talented, well-qualified workers quit their positions in search of greener pastures. Furthermore, agencies that have strong brand reputation and presence such as Robert Half have outperformed the competition. Still, if you’re looking for an opportunity that hasn’t already blown up, you may want to consider Kelly Services.
On a YTD basis, KELYA hasn’t printed the most enviable of performance metrics, shedding more than 11%. Part of the laggardness could likely be explained by its lack of brand power relative to the competition. Just as significantly, Kelly Services features a broad range of industries, which hasn’t turned out to be quite useful during the new normal.
For instance, the company offers opportunities in industrial, office and contact center departments, which no longer appeals during this Great Resignation. Indeed, the way some companies handled Covid-19 was disastrous, leading business leaders to rethink their approach.
While this is a cynical concept, eventually, the money saved up will run out. When it does, the bad feelings that workers had about 2020 will evaporate as desperation starts to kick in.
Persol Holdings (TEMPF)
For those that really want to go off the beaten path regarding staffing stocks to buy, you should consider Persol Holdings. Headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, Persol is a human resource management company, one of the country’s largest staffing agencies. On the surface, betting on Japanese anything has been tricky due to the world’s third-largest economy’s longtime struggles with deflation. However, risk-tolerant contrarians might have an opportunity here.
First, Japan along with other East Asian countries have handled the Covid-19 crisis far better than other areas. As Time mentioned, it’s an oddity because Japan in particular never went into lockdown. Instead, the country only declared state of emergencies. And while I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the nation, you just didn’t see the kind of aggressive disregard for protocol that happened rather frequently in other societies.
Second, Japan ranks as a top foreign destination spot for Americans and other tourists. That opens the door for staffing needs as the pandemic especially hit hard the accommodation and food service industries in Japan. Therefore, TEMPF stock is a play on what will likely happen, not what’s happening right now.
Staffing Stocks to Buy: Kforce (KFRC)
Not all staffing stocks to buy are equal. In many cases (although exceptions certainly exist), it’s better for workers to go with established, well-recognized brands to get your foot into high-level opportunities. Of course, there’s always a trade off with anything — bigger brands may take a bigger cut of your compensation.
However, other staffing stocks to buy achieve success through focusing in on only relevant industries. That’s the case for Kforce, which doesn’t rank among the world’s top 10 staffing agencies. However, it makes up for this lack of inclusion with outright performance. On a YTD basis, KFRC stock has gained almost 90%. And momentum has picked up considerably in recent times, with its trailing-month performance at more than 24%.
In my opinion, much of this success is tied to Kforce sticking to what works in the modern labor market, specializing in technology, financial services, communications and healthcare. And given that there’s always room for in-demand talented contributors, Kforce has done very well for itself.
In the first three quarters of this year, the company generated revenue of $1.17 billion. In turn, just one more quarter of modest means should see Kforce enjoy a banner year in 2021.
Technically not one of the traditional staffing stocks to buy, I would be remiss not to mention Upwork. Essentially a hub for the burgeoning gig economy, Upwork is a platform that allows enterprise-level clients to interview and hire freelance workers, usually to resolve short-term needs.
And who knows? If an Upwork corporate client likes an independent contractor and the work that he or she brings to the table, they might get hired full time, assuming that’s what the gig worker wants. Either way, it’s a great opportunity for anyone at any stage of their careers, whether just starting out or a second act for mid-career folks.
Furthermore, it’s very possible that the Great Migration might not turn into the Great Hire but instead the Great Contract. Just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic ruining everything, the gig economy grew at 15% over the past decade. With many employees getting their first taste of the gig life, the idea of becoming an independent contractor has become that much more appealing.
Currently, UPWK stock is stuck in a consolidation pattern but that could change soon. Definitely watch this space.
Staffing Stocks to Buy: Adecco Group (AHEXY)
Ranked as the second-biggest staffing agency in the world based on 2019 revenue, Adecco commands 4.6% market share. Aside from top dog Randstad at 4.9% and ManpowerGroup (NYSE:MAN) at 4.1%, none of the other staffing stocks to buy comes close. Ordinarily, that would put Adecco in an enviable position. However, I put its equity unit dead last on this list because of its underperformance.
On a YTD basis, AHEXY stock has dropped almost 24%, which stands in sharp contrast to its peers. As well, it’s distracting when you compare the Switzerland-headquartered company against benchmark indices, whether that of the U.S. or international counterparts. The situation has been especially poor since July 26, with AHEXY down more than 26%.
A major contributing factor to the disappointment in the charts is the financial metrics. On a trailing-12-month basis, revenue stands at just under $25 billion, which beats 2020’s sales haul. However, it will still be down when compared to the sales tallied between 2017 through 2019. And the discrepancy is not insignificant.
However, if you believe that workers will be begging for their jobs — any job — when the good times come to an end, then AHEXY stock might be something to consider.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.