A Healthy Trade In Temps

Temporary help is one of the hottest commodities in health care. Hospitals, nursing homes, and home-service providers can't get enough of it, especially licensed staff in physical, occupational, and speech therapy. And that's why stock in CareerStaff Unlimited (STAF) has been so robust, shooting up from 11 a share in mid-November to nearly 18 on Mar. 21.

"Many institutions are discovering that temporary staffing is a cost-effective way of providing quality care," says Nancy Moyer, a health-care analyst at Unterberg Harris. She notes that CareerStaff has become the leader in a fast-growing niche business. "There is a huge shortage of skilled and licensed physical therapists," she says.

Use of such specialists, she explains, has grown tremendously because of the aging of the population and new surgical procedures that require therapy as a follow-up. Workers' compensation laws in various states also encourage the use of rehab services so workers can return to jobs faster.

Based on her earnings projections, Moyer sees the stock hitting 26 in a year. She expects earnings of 87 cents a share on revenues of $100 million this year, and $1.20 net on sales of $140 million next year. The company reported record numbers last year: Profits soared 370%, to $3 million, or 48 cents a share, as revenues leaped 103%, to $55.2 million.

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