The holiday hiring season is off to a relatively strong start in 2011, with retail employment growing by a non-seasonally adjusted 141,500 jobs in October, according an analysis of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
The 141,500 retail job gains last month nearly matched the 144,100 retail jobs added in October 2010. The first month of holiday hiring both this year and last represent vast improvements over the recession years of 2007 through 2009, when retailers added an average of just 57,200 seasonal workers in October. In 2008 — the worst holiday-hiring season in 22 years — retailers added only 38,600 seasonal workers in October and only 324,000 total workers during entire holiday season of October through December.
“November will give us the best indication of how 2011 stacks up when it comes to holiday hiring. That is usually when we see the highest number of jobs added,” saidJohn A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“There are some troubling signs that retail hiring may not surpass the last year, when retailers added 627,600 holiday workers. Economic reports have been weaker of late, retail sales growth slowed more than expected in October and the latest readings on consumer confidence have shown a much less optimistic public. All of this factors into retailers’ staffing decisions,” he added.
In its annual holiday hiring forecast released in September, Challenger predicted that seasonal hiring would be about the same or even a little lower than a year ago.
“Even if retailers dramatically increase hiring in November, it will not be easy to find a job for those seeking seasonal positions. The competition remains stiff with so many people out of work. People who may have never considered working in retail in the past may now be willing to do so in light of long-term unemployment,” said Challenger.
“Job seekers who apply for positions online or blindly blanket retail outlets with completed applications will lose out to those who take more aggressive steps, such as visiting stores during slower hours and initiating face-to-face interactions with store managers.
“Additionally, while big holiday hiring plans have been announced by such stores as Toys R Us and Macy’s, job seekers should not overlook smaller mom-and-pop stores, as well as businesses outside of the retail sector that could see a holiday surge. Restaurants, shipping offices, event venues, caterers, etc., should also be on the target list for holiday job seekers,” Challenger advised.
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JOBS ADDED IN RETAIL TRADE
October, November, December, 1999-2010
Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., using non-seasonally
adjusted data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics