Holiday Hiring Update: October Seasonal Hiring Best Since 1999

Holiday hiring got off to its strongest start in 14 years, as retail employment grew by 159,500* in October, according to an analysis of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The 159,500 net new jobs in retail last month marks a 6.7 percent increase from October 2012, when retailers increased their payrolls by 149,400.   It was the most new hires in the first month of the annual holiday hiring period since 1999, when retail employment expanded by 172,200 in October.

The strong start bodes well for a holiday hiring season that stretches from October through December, with the heaviest retail workforce additions, typically occurring in November.  Last year, the three-month hiring period resulted in 751,800 new jobs being added by retailers; the most since 2000, when retailers added 788,200 workers during the final three months of the year.

Last year’s holiday hiring binge brought retail employment in the sector to 15,538,300 in December, the month in which retail employment generally reaches its annual peak. That was the highest number of retail workers in December, since 2007, when employment reached 16,156,400.

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Climate Change Could Impact Jobs

This week, Cargill Beef announced that it will be shuttering one of its Texas plants as a prolonged drought in the state thins cattle herds to their lowest levels in 60 years. The closure will force the plant’s 2,000 workers to relocate to one of the company’s other plants or find employment elsewhere. This is not the first time climate change has impacted jobs and it will not be the last, according to workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Challenger forecasts that the impact of climate change on the economy and employment will only increase in the years to come. “Agriculture could be the biggest victim of changing weather patterns brought on by climate change. We are no longer an agriculture-based economy, but the sector still employs between 150,000 and 250,000 workers, depending on the time of year. The other area that could feel pain related to climate change is tourism. Ski resorts in Colorado are already seeing the effects of less snowfall. Not only are skiers seeking deeper powder further north, but the resorts are spending a lot more making artificial snow.” Not all of the fallout from climate change is negative. “In some areas, climate change could lead to more jobs. In Chicago, for example, where we have had less than two inches of snow this entire winter, construction workers and road workers have been able to continue working without weather-related stoppages. And, while it is difficult to imagine any silver linings in the aftermath of the increasing number super storms and hurricanes, such as the one that ravaged the east coast in October, there does tend to be increased economic activity and job creation in the areas impacted as cities and states clean up and rebuild.” The biggest and most positive impact on employment, Challenger hopes, will come from initiatives to address and reverse climate change, such as the development of new renewable energy sources and the manufacture of more energy-efficient transportation. What other industries could be impacted by climate change? How many jobs have been created by “green” initiatives? What sectors of the economy hold the most potential for creating green jobs? 

Worst Flu Season In 10 Years Could Cost Billions

With three months remaining in what is already being called the worst flu season in a decade, employers around the country are undoubtedly feeling the financial impact of increased health care costs and widespread absenteeism.  Making matters worse, according to one workplace authority, is the tendency of employees concerned about job security to keep coming to the office despite their apparent illness.

“The economy is still on shaky ground and many workers continue to be worried about losing their jobs, despite the fact that annual layoffs are at the lowest level since the late 1990s.  In this environment, workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days.  Of course, this has significant negative consequences for the workplace, where the sick worker is not only performing at a reduced capacity but also likely to infect others,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that, on average, seasonal flu outbreaks cost the nation’s employers $10.4 billion in direct costs of hospitalizations and outpatient visits.  That does not include the indirect costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism.  Continue reading

Seasonal Hiring Up More Than 10%

Despite some year-end uncertainty related to fiscal cliffs, a devastating hurricane and election-year politicking, retailers were confident enough in the final three months of 2012 to ramp up holiday hiring to its highest level in six years, according to an analysis of government employment data released by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Employment in the retail sector increased by a net 728,300 jobs, between October 1 and December 31, according to non-seasonally adjusted data, released last week by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That is 10.3 percent higher than 2011, when retailers added 660,200 extra workers over the final three months of the year.  The nearly 730,000 retail jobs added this year represents the strongest year-end hiring surge since 2006, when employment in the sector increased by 746,900.

The bulk of the 2012 holiday hiring occurred in October and November, when employment grew by 149,600 and 490,400 workers, respectively.  Retailers hired just 88,300 additional workers in December, which was actually down significantly from the 147,600 workers added in December 2011.

“The fact that holiday hiring in the retail sector reached pre-recession levels is remarkable for a few reasons.  More people are working, but many are still under-employed and, as a result, wages have remained stubbornly low.  So, spending power this year was not necessarily greater than a year ago.  Additionally, more people are shopping online, where increased holiday demand is more easily met without adding a lot of seasonal workers.   Yet, despite these factors, brick-and-mortar retailers moved forward with increased hiring,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“An early Thanksgiving, which meant earlier Black Friday sales, may have contributed to an earlier hiring surge.  Additionally, a growing number of retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Thursday, which may have also boosted the need for extra hiring in order to ensure that enough workers were available to staff these holiday hours,” he noted.

Retail sales, excluding drug stores, increased 4.8 percent in December, according to Retail Metrics.  The International Council of Shopping Centers estimates that its members will show an increase about 4.0 percent total for December.  Meanwhile, e-commerce was up 14 percent for the entire holiday season, according to comScore.

“Some industry analysts are expecting retail sales to maintain some momentum into the new year, as consumers spend gift cards.  However, gift card traffic is unlikely to result retailers holding on to all of the extra holiday workers.  Some may stay, but the vast majority will be let go,” said Challenger.

After adding 660,200 seasonal workers over the final three months of 2011, retail employment fell by 789,400 in January and February 2012.

JOBS ADDED IN RETAIL TRADE

October, November, December, 1999-2012

 

Oct

Nov

Dec

TOTAL

Job Growth Compared to Previous Year

1999

172,200

369,100

308,200

849,500

8.0%

2000

143,600

393,800

250,800

788,200

-7.2%

2001

95,700

352,100

137,500

585,300

-25.7%

2002

125,800

350,500

193,200

669,500

14.4%

2003

145,000

305,100

189,800

639,900

-4.4%

2004

158,000

371,800

180,700

710,500

11.0%

2005

122,300

392,700

196,600

711,600

0.2%

2006

150,600

427,300

169,000

746,900

5.0%

2007

87,900

465,400

167,600

720,900

-3.5%

2008

38,600

213,600

72,700

324,900

-54.9%

2009

45,100

317,100

133,600

495,800

52.6%

2010

149,800

339,200

158,600

647,600

30.6%

2011

128,900

   383,700

147,600

660,200

1.9%

2012

149,600

   490,400

88,300

728,300

10.3%

AVERAGE

122,364

369,414

171,014

662,793

 

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

 

JOBS LOST IN RETAIL TRADE
January, February, 2005-2012
 

Jan

Feb

TOTAL

2005

-655,600

-139,400

-795,000

2006

-692,800

-178,400

-871,200

2007

-640,000

-160,600

-800,600

2008

-698,100

-232,700

-930,800

2009

-736,000

-249,200

-985,200

2010

-572,800

-167,700

-740,500

2011

-559,700

-166,500

-726,200

2012

-568,700

-220,700

-789,400

 

     

 

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

November Holiday Hiring Strongest On Record

Retailers added 465,500 seasonal workers in November, the most ever added during what is typically the busiest hiring month of the holiday hiring season, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The net gain in retail employment achieved last month barely surpassed the previous record set in 2007, when retail payrolls grew by 465,400 workers during the month of November.

November job gains were up 21 percent from the 383,700 seasonal workers hired by retailers a year ago.  Furthermore, October job gains in the retail sector were adjusted upward to 145,200 from an originally-reported figure of 130,100. Continue reading

January CEO Report: Turnover Surges To 20-Month High

The new year brought a surge in turnover among the nation’s chief executive officers, as 123 left their posts in January.  That is the highest monthly total since May 2010 when 125 changes were recorded, according to the monthly report on CEO turnover released Wednesday by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The 123 January CEO departures was a 48 percent increase from the 83 exits recorded in December.  Last month’s total was 28 percent higher than January 2011, when 96 chief executive departures were announced.

“2011 saw relatively mild CEO turnover as companies tried to determine how best to maneuver the economic climate.  Companies were focused on cutting costs and doing more with less.  Now, as jobs begin to trickle back and other factors signal economic growth, companies may try to find leaders who are able to drive expansion,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Read the full report here.

Bulletin: SOTU And Jobs, Abbott Cuts 1,900

State of the Job Market

Not surprisingly, President Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union address focused heavily on the economy and, more specifically, job creation.  The job market certainly appears to be poised for a comeback.  Planned layoffs have fallen to the lowest levels since 2000 and hiring is slowly picking up steam.  However, the job gains have been too small to make any discernable dent in unemployment, so many are still waiting for the catalyst that will re-ignite accelerated and larger increases in hiring.  The question is: can Washington policies, whether they come from the Left or the Right, provide that catalyst?  It is well known that American companies are sitting on large sums of cash saved from two years of significant cost-cutting, yet they appear to be reluctant to start spending it.  That may change this year amid rising demand.  In a recent survey of CEOs from the nation’s largest employers, 80 percent expect their company’s sales to increase over the next six months, and 45 percent expected to add employees, which is the highest hiring level in records going back to the fourth quarter of 2002.  What, if any, government policies will have the most impact on job creation?  Will more stimulus spending or federal spending cuts be more effective in spurring employment growth?  What will compel American companies to start spending their accumulated savings and will that spending be on additional workers or something else?

Will Heavy Pharmaceutical Cuts Continue in 2011?

Abbott Laboratories announced a restructuring this morning that will cost the Chicago-based pharmaceutical company 1,900 jobs.  The company blamed difficult regulatory conditions for the need to reduce expenses that will save the company $300 million over the next several years.  The pharmaceutical industry came off a challenging year in 2010, as companies in the industry announced 53,636 job cuts, the second highest industry total of the year and the second largest job-cut year for the sector on record.  Are today’s Abbott cuts an indication that heavy downsizing will continue for the pharmaceutical sector in 2011?  Even as other areas in the health care sector thrive amid increased demand for products and services, why does the pharmaceutical industry appear to be losing ground?  What other areas of the economy are at risk in 2011?  What areas are positioned to achieve growth?