Staffing Firms Revenue After a Recession

Overview

In an analysis of 12 publicly traded staffing firms (job advertising, placement, and temporary workers) through the Dotcom bubble and the Global Financial Crisis, the behavior of staffing firm’s revenue was remarkably consistent.

  • Roughly ⅓ of the publicly traded firms never regained the same level of revenue as before the start of either recession
  • The average firm saw year-over-year declines in revenue for 7 quarters (1.75 years)
  • Of the firms that regained revenue, the median time to retouch revenue highs was 13 quarters (3.25 years). The average was slightly longer. 

Dataset 

The data encompasses 12 companies, with earliest recorded revenue starting in 1996 and goes through Q4 2019. The following stocks were analyzed:

  • MWW
  • KELYA
  • RHI
  • MAN
  • ASGN
  • AMN
  • DHX
  • KRFC
  • JOB
  • MHH
  • RCMT
  • TSRI

30% of Firms Never Recover Revenue Highs

Out of 9 publicly traded staffing firms in 2000 and 12 during the Financial crisis, ⅓ never regained their previous revenue highs. Some, like Monster, came close after the dotcom bubble, only to have revenue decline when the Financial Crisis hit. 

SummaryDotcom CrashFinancial Crisis
Re-reach Revenue High68
Never Regain Revenue Highs34
Total912
% Never Regain Revenue Highs33%33%

An example includes Monster Worldwide. Monster’s revenue peaked at close to $1.5B in 2000, and made it back over $1B before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Revenue mostly declined until 2016 when it was purchased by Randstad for $430. 

It takes about 3 years for Revenue to Recover

For firms that regained revenue highs, the median time to regain revenue was about 3 years. The average was slightly longer than the median for both recessions. GEE Group (ticket:JOB) took 54 quarters to return to pre-dotcom revenue levels, creating significant skew.

Time to RecoverDotcom Ave RecoveryGFC
Median in Quarters1313
Mean in Quarters1716
STDEV in Quarters156
Median in Years33

Revenue shrinks for about a year

After both recessions, the average firm saw revenue decline year-on-year for 7 quarters, or about 1.75 years. The industry, overall, took 6 quarters to start growing revenue again. 

Recovery After the Financial Crisis Has Been Tepid

Since the end of the Financial Crisis, revenue growth for the listed staffing firms, overall, has been weak. Four firms IPO’d between the Dotcom crash and the Global Financial Crisis, this pulled up the post Dotcom crash year-on-year revenue performance numbers. Monster was acquired in 2016, and this exit will bring down the 2017 year-over-year numbers, slightly.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn filed to go public in 2011, but reported revenues from 2007 on for their S-1 filing. The Financial Crisis likely had an impact on their revenue growth. Revenue from 2007 to 2008 grew 100%. Revenue from 2009 to 2010 grew 100%, but revenue from 2008 to 2009 grew only 50%. 

Conclusion

The Covid-19 Pandemic created an unprecedented level of unemployment in a historically short time period. This recession is not like the previous two recessions. It’s difficult to project how staffing firms will perform, but it’s reasonable to think a certain percentage (maybe a third?) will never regain the same revenue levels. 

Fast growing, profitable, low debt firms are in the position to emerge the strongest, but even that, regaining lost revenue might take at least a year, if not more. 

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