Holiday Seasonal Work: More Relief?

Photograph by Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images

Retailers have started hiring seasonal workers to staff their stores. Here, customers shop at Macy's in New York on Black Friday.

Written by Elizabeth Dexheimer

There’s plenty of talk about jobs on the campaign trail, but many Americans looking for work are focusing beyond the November presidential election to the next big dates on the calendar.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner, and retailers have started hiring seasonal workers to staff their stores, warehouses and distribution centers. Both employers and job-seekers are crossing their fingers that some of these temporary gigs turn into full-time jobs.

While the growth in seasonal hires is expected to be less than last year, that’s in part because retailers are using more year-round workers, some hired from last year’s seasonal pool.

“This is a fabulous time to try to take something seasonal and turn it into something permanent,” said Maryam Morse, national reward practice leader at Hay Group, a consulting firm. “Last year we saw a lot of the retailers we work with take 20 to 30 percent of their seasonal applications and turn them into permanent positions.”

Already, Macy’s Inc., Toys `R’ Us, and Kohl’s have announced they’ll be hiring more seasonal workers this year compared with last. Target Corp., however, will be hiring fewer workers this year, having held onto more of last year’s hires.

In a holiday hiring survey, Hay Group found 43 percent of retailers said they will have more permanent workers and fewer seasonal workers this year, compared with 19 percent last year.

These odds sound promising to job hunters like Phil Lubov, who has been unemployed since May. He recently attended a job fair at Ocean County Mall in Toms River, New Jersey looking for any opportunity that might lead to a full-time retail position.

“The unemployment that I’m collecting runs out Dec. 29, so I’m getting a little bit concerned,” he said. “I’m just trying to find someone who would value the experience I have.”

At the same time, the holiday season won’t be as robust as it was last year. Hiring in November and December is projected to increase at most 2.9 percent, compared with a 7.9 percent increase last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Holiday sales will rise 4.1 percent to an estimated $586.1 billion, below the 5.6 percent gain a year earlier.

Still, any increase in jobs is welcome, according to Chris Varvares, senior managing director at Macroeconomic Advisers.

The holiday season “definitely puts a shot of income into the economy that if we were missing, we would notice,” he said.

See the full report on seasonal hiring at Bloomberg.com.

 

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