More Than 718,000 Seasonal Workers Hired For 2011 Holiday Season

Seasonal hiring in retail nearly returned to pre-recession levels in 2011, as employment in the sector experienced a net gain of 718,500 over the final three months of the year, according to an analysis of employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That marks a 14.5 percent improvement over the 627,500 seasonal jobs added 2010, and falls just shy of the 720,800 added in 2007, when the economy still relatively strong.

The analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found that while October hiring was down from a year earlier, strong job gains in November and December fueled the surge.  November job gains increased 23 percent from 332,700 in 2010 to 409,800 this year.   Meanwhile, December job gains were up 20 percent from a year earlier to 188,600, which is the largest number of retail jobs added in the final month of the year since 196,400 jobs were created in 2005.

“Seasonal hiring was better than expected this year, particularly since the recovery was stumbling a bit just as we were approaching the period when retailers make their hiring decisions.   However, early sales and other measures to get people out to the stores and malls apparently created increased demand for extra holiday workers.  Strong Black Friday sales likely contributed to the December job gains,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Retail sales in December were up about 3.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey of 22 major chains by Thomson Reuters.  Meanwhile, online sales were up 15 percent from a year ago, which helped create jobs outside of retail, as shipping firms like UPS and FedEx bulked up their rosters to help fulfill all of the online orders.

“Now, the question is whether the consumer will go into post-holiday hibernation.  Several retail experts have predicted that this year could see particularly weak January sales, as Americans try to recover from holiday spending, much of which was on credit cards,” said Challenger.

Credit card use over the Christmas season was up about 25 percent from a year earlier, according to America’s Research Group.

Over the last several years, retailers have cut more workers in January and February than they hired in the preceding three months.  After adding 627,600 seasonal workers over the final three months of 2010, retail employment fell by 739,700 in January and February 2011.

# # #

JOBS ADDED IN RETAIL TRADE

October, November, December, 1999-2011


 

Oct

Nov

Dec

TOTAL

Job Growth Compared to Previous Year

1999

172,300

369,000

308,100

849,400

8.0%

2000

143,700

393,800

250,600

788,100

-7.2%

2001

95,700

352,000

137,600

585,300

-25.7%

2002

125,900

350,400

193,300

669,600

14.4%

2003

145,100

305,000

189,900

640,000

-4.4%

2004

157,800

371,800

180,600

710,200

11.0%

2005

122,300

392,700

196,400

711,400

0.2%

2006

150,600

427,200

169,000

746,800

5.0%

2007

87,900

465,400

167,500

720,800

-3.5%

2008

38,600

213,500

72,800

324,900

-54.9%

2009

45,100

317,000

133,700

495,800

52.6%

2010

144,100

332,700

150,800

627,600

26.6%

2011

127,100

   409,800

181600

718,500

14.5%

AVERAGE

119,708

361,562

179,377

655,825

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., with non-seasonally adjusted data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

JOBS LOST IN RETAIL TRADE
January, February, 2005-2011

Jan

Feb

TOTAL

2005

-655,600

-139,200

-794,800

2006

-692,700

-178,400

-871,100

2007

-640,000

-160,600

-800,600

2008

-698,200

-232,600

-930,800

2009

-736,100

-249,000

-985,100

2010

-572,700

-167,800

-740,500

2011

-566,700

-173,000

-739,700

 

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