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Robert Half International Inc (NYSE:RHI)
Q1 2021 Earnings Call
Apr 21, 2021, 5:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Hello, and welcome to the Robert Half First Quarter 2021 Conference Call. Our hosts for today's call are Mr. Keith Waddell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Robert Half, and Mr. Michael Buckley, Chief Financial Officer.

Mr. Waddell, you may begin.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hello, everyone. We appreciate your time today. Before we get started, I'd like to remind you that the comments made on today's call contain forward-looking statements, including predictions and estimates about our future performance. These statements represent our current judgment of what the future holds. However, they are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties are described in today's press release and our most recent 10-K and 10-Q filed with the SEC. We assume no obligation to update the statements made on today's call.

During this presentation, we may mention some non-GAAP financial measures and reference these figures as, as adjusted. Reconciliations and further explanations of these measures are included in a supplemental schedule to our earnings press release.

Our presentation of revenues and the related growth rates for Accountemps, OfficeTeam, Robert Half Technology, and Robert Half Management Resources include their intersegment revenues from services provided to Protiviti in connection with the Company's blended staffing and consulting solutions. This is how we measure and manage these divisions internally. The combined amount of divisional intersegment revenues with Protiviti is also separately disclosed. The supplemental schedules just mentioned also include a revenue schedule showing this information for 2018 through 2021. For your convenience, our prepared remarks for today's call are available in the Investor Center of our website roberthalf.com.

We are extremely pleased that our first quarter results exceeded the high end of our guidance and reflect a broad-based recovery that's well under way. Protiviti's revenues grew 35% year-on-year reflecting continuing momentum across its wide array of service offerings, including very strong managed solutions with staffing. This is Protiviti's 14th consecutive quarter of year-on-year revenue gains. Our staffing operations significantly outperformed their historical sequential trends, led by small and medium-sized businesses and permanent placement, which grew 22% sequentially.

I continue to be impressed with the adaptability of our teams in navigating the new hybrid and remote work models with our clients and candidates, helping them grow and find meaningful work. Companywide revenues were $1.398 billion in the first quarter of 2021, down 7% from last year's first quarter on a reported basis, and down 8% on an as adjusted basis. Net income per share in the first quarter was $0.98, increasing 24% compared to $0.79 in the first quarter a year ago.

Cash flow from operations during the quarter was $68 million. In March, we distributed a $0.38 per share cash dividend to our shareholders of record, for a total cash outlay of $44 million. We also acquired approximately 797,000 Robert Half shares during the quarter for $61 million. We have 9.2 million shares available for repurchase under our Board approved stock repurchase plan. Our return on invested capital for the company was 37% in the first quarter.

Now, I'll turn the call over to our CFO, Mike Buckley.

Michael C. Buckley -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Keith, and hello, everyone. Let's start with revenues. As Keith noted, global revenues were $1.398 billion in the first quarter. On an as adjusted basis, first quarter staffing revenues were down 18% year-over-year. U.S. staffing revenues were $759 million, down 19% from the prior year. Non-U.S. staffing revenues were $242 million, down 15% year-over-year on an as adjusted basis. We have 322 staffing locations worldwide, including 86 locations in 17 countries outside the United States.

In the first quarter, there were 62.3 billing days compared to 63.1 billing days in the first quarter one year ago. The current second quarter has 63.4 billing days equivalent to the second quarter one year ago. Currency exchange rate movements during the first quarter had the effect of increasing reported year-over-year staffing revenues by $17 million. This impacted our year-over-year reported staffing revenue growth rate by 1.4 percentage points.

Now, let's take a closer look at results for Protiviti. Global revenues in the first quarter were $397 million. $316 million of that is from business within the United States, and $81 million is from operations outside the United States. On an as adjusted basis, global first quarter Protiviti revenues were up 35% versus the year-ago period, with U.S. Protiviti revenues up 37%. Non-U.S. revenues were up 26% on an as adjusted basis. Exchange rates had the effect of increasing year-over-year Protiviti revenues by $6 million and increasing its year-over-year reported growth rate by 2 percentage points. Protiviti and its independently owned member firms serve clients through a network of 86 locations in 28 countries.

We remind you that changes to the company's deferred compensation obligations are classified as SG&A or, in the case of Protiviti, cost of services with completely offsetting changes in the related trust investment assets classified separately below SG&A. Previously, they were both classified as SG&A. Our historical discussion of consolidated operating income has been replaced with the non-GAAP measures of combined segment income. This is calculated as consolidated income before income taxes, adjusted for interest income and amortization of intangible assets.

For your convenience, we've included a supplemental schedule to today's earnings release on Page 7, highlighting the impact of changes in the deferred compensation accounts to the summary of operations for the first quarter of 2021 and 2020. This is a non-GAAP disclosure, so we also show a reconciliation to GAAP.

Turning now to gross margin. In our temporary and consultant staffing operations, first quarter gross margin was 38.8% of applicable revenues compared to 37.8% of applicable revenues in the first quarter one year ago. Our permanent placement revenues in the first quarter were 11.2% of consolidated staffing revenues versus 9.9% of consolidated staffing revenues in the same quarter one year ago. When combined with temporary and consultant gross margin, overall staffing gross margin increased 160 basis points compared to the year-ago first quarter to 45.6%.

For Protiviti, gross margin was 26.5% of Protiviti revenues compared to 27.6% of Protiviti revenues one year ago. Adjusted for the effect of deferred compensation expense related to changes in the underlying trust investment assets as previously mentioned, gross margin for Protiviti was 26.9% for the quarter just ended compared to 26.3% one year ago.

Companywide SG&A costs were 30.3% of global revenues in the first quarter compared to 29.4% in the same quarter one year ago. Changes in deferred compensation obligations related to increases in underlying trust investments had the impact of increasing SG&A as a percent of revenue by 0.8% in the first quarter and decreasing SG&A by 2.4% in the same quarter one year ago. When adjusted for these changes, companywide SG&A costs were 29.5% for the quarter just ended compared to 31.8% one year ago.

Staffing SG&A costs were 37.3% of staffing revenues in the first quarter versus 32.3% in the Q1 -- in Q1 2020. Included in staffing SG&A costs was deferred compensation expense related to increases in the underlying trust investment assets of 1% in the first quarter compared to income of 3% related to decreases in the underlying trust investment assets in the same quarter one year ago. When adjusted for these changes, staffing SG&A costs were 36.3% for the quarter just ended compared to 35.3% one year ago. First-quarter SG&A costs for Protiviti were 12.5% of Protiviti revenues compared to 17.3% of revenues in the year-ago period.

Operating income for the quarter was $139 million. This includes $12 million of deferred compensation expense related to increases in the underlying trust investment assets. Combined segment income was therefore, $151 million in the first quarter. Combined segment margin was 10.8%. First quarter segment income from our staffing divisions was $93 million with a segment margin of 9.3%. Segment income for Protiviti in the first quarter was $57 million with a segment margin of 14.4%. Our first quarter tax rate was 26% compared to 32% a year ago. The 2020 rate was elevated based upon the estimated lower coverage of non-deductible tax items due to lower pandemic-impacted revenues.

Moving on to accounts receivable. At the end of the first quarter, accounts receivable was $800 million, and implied days sales outstanding or DSO was 51.4 days. Before we move to second quarter guidance, let's review some of the monthly revenue trends we saw in the first quarter and so far in April, all adjusted for currency and billing days.

Our temporary and consultant staffing divisions exited the first quarter with March revenues down 12.5% versus the prior year, compared to an 18.9% decrease for the full quarter. Revenues for the first two weeks of April were up 9% compared to the same period one year ago. Permanent placement revenues in March were up 24.2% versus March of 2020. This compares to an 8.1% decrease for the full quarter. For the first three weeks of April permanent placement revenues were up 154% compared to the same period in 2020.

We provide this information so that you have insight into some of the trends we've seen during the first quarter and into April. But as you know, these are very brief time periods and we caution against reading too much into them. With that in mind, we offer the following second quarter guidance. Revenues $1.435 billion to $1.515 billion. Income per share $1 to $1.10. The midpoint of our guidance implies a year-over-year revenue increase of 31% on an as adjusted basis including Protiviti. Midpoint EPS of $1.05 would represent an all-time high for the company.

The major financial assumptions underlying the midpoint of these estimates are as follows. Revenue growth on a year-over-year basis, staffing up 23% to 26%, Protiviti up 47% to 49%, overall up 30% to 32%.

On the gross margin percentages, temporary and consultant staffing 38% to 39%, Protiviti 27% to 29% and overall 40% to 41%. SG&A as percent of revenues, excluding deferred compensation investment impacts, staffing 35% to 37%, Protiviti 12% to 14%, overall 29% to 30%. And segment income, staffing 9% to 10%, Protiviti 14% to 15%, and overall 10% to 11%. Full year capital expenditures and capitalized cloud computing costs, $85 million to $95 million with $15 million to $20 million in the second quarter. Our tax rate, 26% to 27% and shares at 112 million. We limit our guidance to one quarter. All estimates we provide on this call are subject to the risks mentioned in today's press release and in our SEC filings.

Now, I'll turn the call back over to Keith.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Mike. Our staffing results accelerated during the quarter, indicating a faster early cycle pace of recovery than we've experienced in the past. This was very broad based and seen across geographies, lines of business, client size, and skill levels. As I mentioned earlier, small and medium-size businesses led the way after being more negatively impacted during the peak of the pandemic. The NFIB recently reported that 42% of small businesses had job openings they could not fill, which was a record level. This bodes well for us.

Our investments in advanced AI technologies have allowed us to adapt quickly to a new marketplace, where remote and hybrid work has become commonplace. Together with our people, these technologies enable us to find solutions to meet the critical talent and consulting needs of our clients across broader resource pools. Protiviti continues to thrive with multi-year double-digit growth and a pipeline that is highly diversified across both solution offerings and client segments. Our blended solutions, complementing Protiviti's offerings with contract talent, allows us to be extremely nimble and cost effective in response to client needs, and we expect this offering to be an increasing part of our business going forward.

We're excited about our current momentum and our prospects for the balance of 2021 and beyond, buoyed by the strength of our brands, our people, our technology, and our professional business model. We'd also like to thank our employees for making possible two recognition awards we've received just in the last few days. These are Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2021 and Forbes' Best Employers for Diversity 2021.

Now, Mike and I would be happy to answer your questions. Please ask just one question and a single follow up as needed. If there's time, we'll come back to you for additional questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Andrew Steinerman with J.P. Morgan.

Andrew Steinerman -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Hi, it's Andrew. Keith, I wanted to ask you if you felt the U.S. has entered a brand new economic expansion, which bodes for particularly strong years of revenue growth at Robert Half, or is there something about the 2020 recession that was just different than past recessions and it really kind of lands us more where we were in 2019 in terms of the economy, which really only supported mid-single-digit revenue growth on our ongoing basis for Robert Half?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, Andrew, we would say that it feels very traditional early cycle and just to quantify that a little bit, we looked at the first three quarters post trough for the recovery post-dot-com, for the recovery post-financial crisis and for the recent. And as an example, three quarters post trough, first time, temp up 13%, perm up 18%, after the financial crisis temp up 9%, perm up 34%, and this time temp up 18%, perm up 56%.

Further, if you look at the peak to trough decline, those declines on the temp side are pretty consistent across those three cycles. Our people would tell you that the recovery feels very classic, that there is improving demand broadly across all the dimensions that I talked about that, as always, clients cut deep, they've got lean staff. As transaction volumes improve, as projects restart, they need more help, they need to restore their workforce, many times upskill. And so, for us, it feels very classical. Traditionally, we've got a nice three to five year runway once we get into recovery, which we believe we're well under way as we've spoken about.

Andrew Steinerman -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Perfect. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Mark Marcon with Robert W. Baird.

Mark Marcon -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Good afternoon, Keith and Michael. First of all, congratulations on the stellar results. I'd like to talk about Protiviti. Specifically, wondering if you can give us a little bit more color on the stellar results that they ended up having. As you mentioned, 14 straight quarters, 35% growth. If we take a look at the -- what you're forecasting here going into the second quarter, can you just dimensionalize how much of the uplift is because you're getting more opportunities broadly speaking, more adept versus an improvement in terms of the win rate and really gaining share.

And then can you also talk a little bit about what are some of the drivers -- you did say it was broad based, but I'm wondering if you could give us some commentary with regards to the public sector work, the IT work, SPACs, and obviously, we can see the results in terms of staffing in terms of what's being eliminated for the intersegment revenue, so obviously, that continues to go well, but just wondering if you can give some more color there?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. And so, as you said, we're very proud with the 35% growth rate and it splits pretty evenly between what I'll call core -- the core solutions, tech, risk and compliance, internal audit, which grew 18% year-on-year totally exclusive of public sector and blended solutions. Blended solutions then grew 124% adding 17 points to the growth rate. So you've got 18 points of the growth rate coming from core, you've got 17 points of the growth rate coming from blended solutions. And, by the way, those blended solutions then split about 50-50 between public sector and non-public sector. So that sizes, if you will, the contribution to public sector.

If you then look at their core solutions, in tech, which they've been very strategic about picking their shots as to practice areas, they've been very strategic about making the right hires at the right levels including very senior levels. And so they're in cyber, they're in privacy, they're in digital transformation, data analytics. As I've talked before, tech consulting is now the largest core solution area for Protiviti. Risk and compliance remains very strong, anti-money laundering, consumer lending regulatory enforcement, regulator exam preparation, all very good. Internal audit, as you spoke about, clearly benefiting from IPOs and SPACs. Further, they've got clients reinstating their internal audit budgets that have been cut last year during the pandemic, which also lead to our very aggressive -- conservatively aggressive, we would call, for Q2 with the budget for the guidance.

The interesting thing about the public sector is it's -- in blended solutions with staffing generally, it's not just U.S. and we now have some sizable engagements outside of the U.S., which are contributing. So we're very pleased with that. As we've talked before those public sector engagements are around unemployment, housing assistance. A new and large opportunity we're seeing is in the education. There's a lot of funding going to K through 12 and higher level, college level institutions that are going to get a lot of funding, that are going to need help distributing and accounting for those funds. We've been pleased about the renewals that we've gotten where we already are and we are organizing or mobilizing as we speak to take advantage of this education opportunity.

So it's one of those times where virtually every core solution area as well as the additional work we're getting in blended solutions, not only from public sector but from non-public sector as well, so that we've got a Q2 revenue guide for Protiviti for up 40%.

Mark Marcon -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

That's great. Thank you for the color. Just to be 100% clear, I mean it sounds like you're obviously getting all sorts of different opportunities. Can you comment a little bit just on the win rate relative to the Big Four because I suspect you are continuing to win those but just wanted to confirm that, number one. And number two, on the public sector, one of the things that we sometimes hear pushback on is the incentives. Well, those are just temporary, they're only going to be here for another few months to a year and then they're going to fade, what's your sense?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, on Big Four win rates, understand that the Big Four are frenemies. On one hand, we compete with them on the other hand when they're conflicted because of their external audit engagements, we're the first party they refer to because we don't compete with them on external audit like the other Big Four. So I'd say our win rate is consistent and rising, particularly in the blended solutions area where they simply don't have the capabilities that we have.

And on this issue of sustainability with public sector, I guess, transitory is a word that our Fed Reserve Chairman likes to use. We've been very transparent that clearly there is a bulge dimension to the transaction volumes we're helping with. But we've also been clear that we believe we're building new relationships that we can leverage as they improve their processes, as they improve their controls, as they modernize their technology. So we're certainly aware that there is a window of time where we're going to have a very intense relationship with these state and local government and even local school districts and we're working very hard to extend those. We've been very positively surprised or pleased with the extensions we're seeing, sometimes into the second and third quarter with this -- the work that we're already doing.

So clearly there is a bulge element to what's going in public sector but it's not only bulge and we think there's an opportunity. And the point I've tried to make is -- and oh, by the way, totally excluding it, Protiviti's still growing 18%. And so, that other 17 points of growth in gravy and we love it and we think we can leverage it for longer term but their core business is growing 18%, that's a big number.

Mark Marcon -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Totally agreed. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Jeff Silber with BMO Capital Markets.

Jeffrey Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks so much. I wanted to shift the discussion over to the Perm segment, which really had a really good quarter, much better than I think most people expected. Can we get a little color where you're seeing that trade either in the type of clients or the type of jobs they could place in?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

The great news, Jeff, is that it's our cross clients and I would say perm placement is more SMB than the temporary side and we are overall. So almost by definition, if it's perm it's SMB. But as I referred to earlier, it's by functional area, meaning it's accounting and finance, and it's technology, and it's legal, and it's marketing and creative. It's by skill level, so it's for the transactional level people, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, general ledger as well as the higher senior accountants, accounting managers, controllers. So it's very broad. It's broad across geographies, not only within the United States but outside the United States as well.

Good news is candidates are getting more confident to make job changes plus being at home frankly, makes it easier for them to confidentially interview with our recruiters, so that's good for perm. Very broad, very robust. We've got huge momentum going into the quarter, we gave you our post-quarter numbers, which were triple-digit growth. So perm, as our people would say, is white-hot at the moment.

Jeffrey Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, that's great to hear. Can we shift over to the international piece of your business? Can you just give us a little bit of color by country and also, do you have any exposure in Mexico? Thanks.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, the latter part is easy. We do not have exposure to Mexico and we don't do a lot of country-by-country discussion. I would call out that Germany and the U.K. had particularly good quarters. But frankly, there was nice recovery across our geographies in Europe and in Asia, so...

Jeffrey Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

All right.

Jeffrey Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

All right, that's great to hear. Thanks so much.

Operator

Your next question is from Manav Patnaik with Barclays.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays PLC -- Analyst

The piece of the early cycle recovery has been faster than you've seen but, I guess, I was just curious if you could compare it a bit to 2019 levels. I guess what I'm trying to get an idea of is, how much more is just left in terms of just pure catching up to pre-pandemic before we start thinking about what the future growth looks like?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Right. A good question. So we are about just over 20% below 2019 for the temp side, and we're about 15% below 2019 on the perm side. And at our current pace, we fully expect to blow by 2019 sooner rather than later.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays PLC -- Analyst

Okay. And it just -- the other question I had quickly was in terms of competition. Are you seeing any changes in the competitive behavior just given obviously is this big catch-up going on and I'm wondering if things are the same or if dynamics have changed?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

And is your question regarding our contract employees we put on engagements or our internal staff?

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays PLC -- Analyst

No, I meant just more from competition with the On Assignment and yeah, other vendors as well.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'd say, On Assignment is a competitor in a very specific and relatively small part of our business, particularly since they focus on mid and large-cap companies. Even in tech, we focus a lot on SMBs as well. So there's not a lot of apples and apples there. But I'd say, the competitive landscape as to pricing vis-a-vis our competitors generally hasn't changed much at all.

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays PLC -- Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Kevin McVeigh with Credit Suisse.

Kevin McVeigh -- Credit Suisse Group AG -- Analyst

Great. Thanks so much and congratulations on the results. Keith, you talked about all-time-high earnings, things like that. Do you think with the way the business is geared, you're positioned for structurally high margins or is it may be some inability to hire or excess capacity among the staff? How are you thinking about the margin trajectory of the business relative to where your staffing levels are internally?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well -- and so when we talk about profitability, those discussions have to start with gross margins. And as we've talked before, traditionally in a downturn, peak to trough, we're down 300 basis points. This time, we were only down 100. We're now back to pre-pandemic levels, pay bill spreads have recovered, we've got lower fringe rates because our higher pay rate divisions make up more of our mix meaning more of the payroll isn't subject to payroll tax. And we've also got this tranche of full-time contractors we've talked about that have higher margins and that's growing as well.

Temp to hire conversions currently 3.1%. They got -- they were 3.5% in 2018, 2019, they've been as high as 4% to 5%, so there is some up -- so there's an upside there. We would caution in the short term like for Q2, Q3, we are projecting some sequential reduction in temp gross margin up to 40 basis points because we've got to pay our temporary or contract staff for time-off to get their vaccine and time-off to recover from that, if needed. But that's a short term or hopefully transitory thing.

On the SG&A front, from a headcount level, given we're still below even 2019 as I just said, we still think we've got capacity with existing staff, which on average is more tenure than it's been in the past. That said, particularly on perm and replacement because of its very rapid growth rates, we're going to be -- we're going to begin to slowly add to internal staff there as well.

Kevin McVeigh -- Credit Suisse Group AG -- Analyst

Super helpful. And, Keith, it sounds like from sourcing candidates there is no issue there, is that right or is -- how is it from a candidate perspective?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I'd say the candidate supply is more nuanced than meets the eye. On one hand, they're resistant for onsite opportunities either because they're concerned about COVID, they don't like the commute times, they don't have child care, they've got school uncertainty for their children, they've got unemployment benefits. They've also got out-of-market opportunities as well as local opportunities and many times, if they don't live in a big city, they live outside of a big city but they've got an opportunity now to get big city pay without even having to move there. So it's a very nuanced situation with candidates.

But the good news is it allows us to add more value because it's more complicated for clients themselves to source candidates, particularly outside their local markets. So the combination of our experienced recruiters and the technology that we've developed give us an opportunity to add value, I would argue, in a new way and in an increased way because of all these candidate nuances. I think clients are understanding as they try, as they always do to some degree, add people on their own. It's a different world, it's a more complicated world and I think relative to clients doing it themselves and relative to our traditional competitors, which are local regional firms, they just don't have the capabilities, they don't have the recruiter relationships, particularly out-of-market such that if anything, our competitive positioning is better than ever.

Kevin McVeigh -- Credit Suisse Group AG -- Analyst

Thanks so much.

Operator

Your next question is from Gary Bisbee with BofA Securities.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Hey, good afternoon. So the first one on the blended staffing, tremendous success you continue to have. Does that have any discernible impact on gross margins in the temp staffing business either up or down or is it generally relatively representative of what they are when you're staffing those people out to an external client?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, so first of all, the staffing temp gross margins we report are not impacted at all by that because it's been pushed over to Protiviti. If you're asking how the gross margins on the business with clients that's serviced by both compares to our general -- our normal gross margins, I'd say they're at or maybe a little above, which is fantastic given that the client base skews much larger and typically staffing by itself going to those larger clients would have some margin pressure that's been avoided by going to market together with Protiviti.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

But, so it -- is it safe to then say, hey, temp gross margin 10 points roughly above Protiviti, so the revenue growth there is helping Protiviti margins because of that delta or is that the way you price it?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well -- and so, I would say the blended solutions reported in Protiviti are accretive to Protiviti's margins in large part because there's no pitch time or utilization reduction because these people are 100% utilized. They're only paid when they are working, by and large. So that utilization differential makes them accretive for Protiviti's gross margin because the large portion of Protiviti's workforce is full-time and utilization management has a huge impact on their margin structure.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Got it. And then even you gave a sense of public sector versus non-public sector. Even if we back out portion of public sector, it really feels like the blended solutions have gained tremendous momentum in the last year, but even the last several quarters, I guess what...

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Absolutely. Right. You take half of total blended solutions away.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Right.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

And what you have left is blended solutions that are non-public sector.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Right. Are they half of...

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

And those are doing quite well too.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Half of year-to-year growth, I think. So it's $30 million or similar to what you said the last few quarters, the rest of it would be traditional, is that a...

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Correct. The rest of it's doing very well.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

And why has the momentum picked up? Is it just you're selling it more aggressively or the clients are responding. Just trying to think about the durability of the drivers of that momentum? Thank you.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'd say we're selling it more aggressively, we're consciously adding to developers that focus on selling just that service, we're adding to subject-matter expertise on the Protiviti side that manages those projects. And so, with the success we've had, success to get success, as I said earlier, it's now gone international, which is really great. It's not just a U.S. thing, we've got some wonderful wins outside of the U.S. So globally, people on the staffing side and the Protiviti side, they just see that it works and they also see that nobody else has it.

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Right. Okay, that sounds great. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Tobey Sommer with Truist Securities.

Tobey Sommer -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Thank you. Given the sort of odd nature of the decline and robust rebound to date, how do you think about bill rates and sort of compensation inflation in this cycle?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

It's -- I would say, wage inflation is usually our friend and as the candidate side tightens, which it's already doing and is expected to further that, not only do we traditionally pass through the higher pay rate, but it also gives us an opportunity to also widen our spread a bit. So you can look back 25 years and you can see the wage inflation is our friend. I think any reasonable person would project that there's going to be some wage inflation as things improve.

Tobey Sommer -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Good. On the social costs that typically dampen gross margins exiting recession and then provide a nice tailwind for subsequent years of recovery, how is this cycle perhaps different?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, interesting one is on the state unemployment and this time around, the states to get the federal subsidies had to agree not to charge the claims to individual company accounts, but instead to keep them in a general pool. And I could make the case that we're not going to benefit by that because the general pool increase will likely or could be argued to be less than what the increases would be had all the claims have been charged to our account. I mean it's been forever the case across the staffing industry that during downturns the previously working temporary employees file a lot of unemployment claims that stay with us for three to five years as the state's average that into their rates.

So I'm cautiously optimistic that because the elevated claims that we read about every day, by and large, haven't been charged to our individual accounts that the one-pool concept will benefit us more than it will hurt us. But only time will tell, I don't know that.

Tobey Sommer -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question is from Hamzah Mazari with Jefferies.

Hamzah Mazari -- Jefferies Group LLC -- Analyst

Over the past few calls, there's been questions about just your capacity and you mentioned it a little bit earlier on in the call about having capacity remaining in the business. I guess just maybe ask it slightly differently, I guess, at the current capacity levels and given the trends in the business that you're seeing right now, how long do you think you can go without having to hire internally? It sounds like you're doing a little bit in perm or expect to, but I guess in the overall business, when should we expect that to ramp, or at what point in the cycle would you want to ramp hiring?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, clearly on the temp side we think we've got a couple of quarters anyway that we'll be just fine with existing staff. And understand that there is a productivity benefit to us with internal remote work because we no longer have to staff every single office for peak demand but instead one office can be assisted by a neighboring office or a distant office remotely when they have peak demands.

My point is, we should be more efficient going forward than we've been in the past because we can share our internal resources across larger areas. So it's not just a matter of because we are recovering, given prior productivity levels we need X number of staff. As I've also talked about, the average tenure of our existing staff is much longer than normal, which also impacts our need to hire.

So long story short, as you referenced, we're beginning to hire internally, we're probably a couple of quarters from starting in temp. But even there it will be at a slower pace than it might otherwise have been because we've got the benefits of remote work, we've got the benefit of our technology tools that we've seen really pay off from us for the last three or four quarters.

Hamzah Mazari -- Jefferies Group LLC -- Analyst

Great. Thank you. I'll just -- one more and I'll turn it over. Just on M&A, I know you've done some smaller deals within Protiviti. Is there anything specific to Protiviti that you guys are looking at currently, are there any chunkier deals or should we expect any smaller deals throughout the remainder of 2021?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I'd say that Protiviti is always looking for solution areas for practice groups that fit culturally and strategically with what they're trying to do. They did the Identity Management deal last quarter and so, I'd say stay tuned but it's just -- it's part of ordinary course of business that they're looking for the practice areas, smaller consulting firms many times that have the same kind of cultural Big Four background that they have.

Hamzah Mazari -- Jefferies Group LLC -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

Your next question is from George Tong with Goldman Sachs.

George Tong -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Hi, thanks. Good afternoon. You mentioned that public sector work lifted Protiviti growth by 17% in the quarter. How much did it benefit temp staffing growth by?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Virtually zero. And it's a very important point and I'm glad you asked the question. The public sector work while it starts in the lines of business on staffing, it gets eliminated. So that intersegment elimination line you see eliminates all of that work. So the growth rates for temp staffing are not impacted by the public sector work, it's ex-public sector. The public sector is over on the Protiviti side and as I just mentioned, you just mentioned, it's about half of their growth rate but half of 35% is still a really big number.

George Tong -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. And then, if you look at performance in the temp staffing business in the U.S. and compare that to Europe, how would you compare the various trajectories of the recovery?

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Amazingly consistent. If you look at temp and perm and we disclose U.S. versus non-U.S., I would say they're amazingly consistent. It's amazingly consistent.

George Tong -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

Got it. Very helpful. Thank you.

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, I think that's our last question. Thanks, everyone, for joining.

Operator

This concludes today's teleconference. If you missed any part of the call, it will be archived in audio format in the Investor Center of Robert Half's website at www.roberthalf.com. You can also dial the conference replay. Dial-in details and the conference ID are contained in the company's press release issued earlier today.

Duration: 51 minutes

Call participants:

M. Keith Waddell -- Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Michael C. Buckley -- Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer

Andrew Steinerman -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Mark Marcon -- Robert W. Baird & Co. -- Analyst

Jeffrey Silber -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Manav Patnaik -- Barclays PLC -- Analyst

Kevin McVeigh -- Credit Suisse Group AG -- Analyst

Gary Bisbee -- BofA Securities, Inc. -- Analyst

Tobey Sommer -- Truist Securities -- Analyst

Hamzah Mazari -- Jefferies Group LLC -- Analyst

George Tong -- Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. -- Analyst

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