First off, if they left in December, they weren't laid off, they volunteered. Second, the contracting gigs are rather lucrative if benefits are not a problem for you. Maybe they only need to bridge a few years to retirement and don't have other good opportunities in the areas they are in. You can only do a 3 year stint as a contractor. I don't have to work, but I'd go back as a part timer just for putting a few extra $$ away before full retirement. Not everyone left a bad work environment. As for the advantage to the company, they are getting the knowledge and experience at a greatly reduced cost to them since much of our total compensation is in benefits.