2012 Holiday Hiring Outlook: Better Than Last Year

Retailers Hopeful for Sales Gains, But That May Not Translate To Increased Hiring

While solid back-to-school sales boosted the confidence of retailers heading into the all-important holiday season, the possibility of increased sales this year may not be enough to spur a significant increase in seasonal hiring, according to the outlook released Monday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

In its annual holiday hiring forecast, Challenger estimated that seasonal job gains are likely to be slightly higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.  Those hoping to take advantage of the seasonal hiring should act early, as several sizable hiring plans announced by major retailers in September suggest that recruiting may start before October.

Last year, retail payrolls saw a non-seasonally adjusted net gain of 660,200 workers from October through December.  That was up just 1.9 percent from 2010, when retail employment increased by 647,600 workers during the holiday hiring season.  Prior to the recession, from 2004 through 2007, retail employment grew by an average of more than 722,000 over the final three months of the year.

“The economy has continued its slow recovery and surveys of retailers show that they are hopeful for solid sales gains this year.  However, recent consumer confidence readings have been relatively weak and unemployment remains stubbornly high.  The mixed picture is likely to compel retail employers to proceed cautiously when it comes to hiring extra workers for the holiday season.  Look for many to start at last year’s levels and hire additional workers only if strong sales early in the season warrant it,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Last year, retailers added just over 660,000.  This year, that figure could approach 700,000.  There is still too much uncertainty to expect seasonal employment gains to reach the level we saw in 2006, when retailers added nearly 747,000 extra workers at the end of the year.  We may never again reach the level of hiring achieved in 1999, at the height of the dot.com boom, when nearly 850,000 seasonal workers were added,” he added.

Get the full report here.

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