September 28, 2012
Looking for a seasonal job? Now's the time
Summer is barely over, but the quest to hire holiday-season workers already has begun.
The largest number of openings will undoubtedly be in the retail sector, and some retailers are optimistic that the economic climate is improving enough for them to hire more workers than last year.
“We’re increasing our head count by 5 percent this year, or roughly 225 people,” says Mark Rodriguez, chief executive officer of Hickory Farms Inc.
John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm that produces an annual forecast on seasonal hiring, says he is “cautiously optimistic” that hiring for the October-December holiday hiring period will be up slightly from 2011, when 718,500 seasonal workers were hired.
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That was a 14.5 percent increase in hiring over 2010.
“We have seen some positive indications that the restaurant and hospitality industry is up; people are beginning to pay off some of the debt they have, and they’ll have a bit more discretionary income,” Challenger says. Another positive sign: Spending on back-to-school items was better than expected.
Last year, according to the Washington state Employment Security Department, retailers statewide hired an additional 13,900 people for the holiday season, about 1,500 more than the ESD had been expecting for 2011. However, the rise in hiring was not as sharp as it had been in 2010, when retailers in Washington bounced back from the Great Recession with 14,700 seasonal jobs, or 2,700 more than had been expected.
Challenger says he expects a 1 to 5 percent increase in hiring this year, which is consistent with slow but steady growth in the economy.
“It feels like the economy’s not growing very rapidly, probably under 2 percent, so it seems unlikely that we’ll see explosive growth in seasonal hiring,” he says. “But layoffs are very light and companies are in slow-growth mode.”
Hickory Farms, which sells specialty food products — usually from temporary storefronts or mall kiosks — annually employs about 5,000 seasonal workers nationwide. Rodriguez says that as his firm has studied the 2012 holiday season, he sees potential for increased sales over 2011, either through additional consumer spending or by capturing additional market share.
“We don’t think spending will be gangbusters, but we think we’ll take more market share,” he says. “We believe we’ll get a bigger share of the wallet regardless of what overall spending is going to be.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said last week it expects to hire more than 50,000 people this holiday season and will be offering more hours to its existing employees. That news followed Kohl’s announcement that it will be hiring more than 52,700 people, up more than 10 percent from last year.
Other companies that recently released information about seasonal hiring plans include GameStop Corp. (17,000 positions); Toys R Us (45,000); Target (80,000-90,000); and Pier 1 (10 to 15 seasonal staffers at each of its 1,058 stores).
Officials at FedEx say they have not firmed up their seasonal hiring plans yet. But UPS has determined its hiring needs and has begun sorting through seasonal applications to start interviewing in October.
“We want to be ready to go on Nov. 1,” says Greg Kelley, a workforce planning manager for UPS. Kelley says that the delivery service’s needs this season will be similar to last year’s, even though it expects an increase in business thanks to more online orders.
“If you look at the year-to-year growth of online shopping you know that that piece of the retail business is just booming,” Kelley says. “Even though we will be more efficient, we still will hire a large number of seasonal employees.”
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