In December, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly three years. Granted, there are still millions of Americans out of work, but the good news is that we are seeing a modest upward trend in job creation. (For related reading, see What You Need To Know About The Employment Report.)
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The biggest winner of this economic climb could be the staffing and outsourcing sector. As more firms are hiring, they will likely turn to staffing companies rather than bring on full-time employees with a plethora of unknown variables hanging over the global economy. The staffing firms will also have a bevy of viable candidates ready at their fingertips to place into open jobs.
Robert Half International (NYSE:RHI) operates around the globe and may be best known for its Accountemps division that offers temporary staffing for the accounting and finance sectors. The company staffs a variety of sectors for both full-time and part-time positions. From a fundamental viewpoint, the stock has a PEG ratio around 0.95 and a forward P/E ratio of approximately 20.16, with an annual dividend of 2%. The stock currently sits in the high-$20s and a breakout above its July 2011 high would be a new buy signal.
Korn/Ferry International (NYSE:KFY) is not as big as RHI and it has a more narrow approach to its business model. The company concentrates on executive recruitment as well as talent consulting and acquisition solutions. KFY also has strong fundamentals with a forward P/E ratio near 13.2 and a PEG ratio of roughly 0.97. The stock does not pay a dividend. Technically, the stock is trading above all relevant moving averages. The key is to hold support around the $17.50 area.
TrueBlue (NYSE:TBI) provides blue-collar staffing services in the U.S. under the brands Labor Ready and Spartan Staffing. Trading with similar fundamentals, TBI has a strong chart in 2012. The forward P/E ratio for the stock is just under 17.0 and the PEG ratio is about 1.09. On the chart, TBI closed at its best level since last April and is up more than 14% so far this year. The stock should not be bought at current levels, but a pullback to the $15 range could be a better opportunity. (To learn more, read Fundamentals And Technicals: Together At Last.)
Manpower Group (NYSE:MAN) provides employment services around the globe, including permanent and temporary staffing and consulting services for its customers. The stock pays approximately a 2.1% dividend and trades with a forward P/E ratio of nearly 11.1 and a PEG ratio of about 0.69. From a fundamental view, the stock is the most attractive of the group. The stock did rally from a bottom in the last month and is now near its best level in five weeks. However, the chart shows that investors are still concerned about the economy and this company in particular. Until the technicals improve, it will be tough to recommend the stock.
The Bottom Line
As an investor already knows, if the jobs situation does not continue to improve, the entire concept mentioned above is out the window. The employment rate does not have to improve dramatically, but it does need to keep moving in the right direction. (For additional reading, see The Unemployment Rate: Get Real.)
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At the time of writing, Matthew McCall did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.