Slight Increase In Travel Could Mean Uptick In Jobs

While prices at the gas pump are still higher than most drivers would like, more American workers are expected to use their vacation days this summer, thanks to the steadily improving economy, increased job security and reasonable airfares.  Increased summer travel, beginning with the Memorial Day holiday, is likely to boost hiring across several travel-related sectors, including leisure and hospitality, food service, retail, and entertainment, according to the employment experts at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“For young job seekers on break from high school or college, travel and leisure-related industries offer a wealth of employment opportunities.  While many employers have already hired the bulk of their seasonal workers by this point, it is still not too late to find openings, particularly for those who live near or are willing to temporarily relocate to popular travel destinations,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Continue reading


Summer Productivity Sappers Include Holiday, Heat Wave


While difficult to measure the economic impact in dollars and cents, the mid-week Independence Day holiday will most definitely have an impact on workplace productivity, according to workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  “The economy at large probably will see any discernible effect from the mid-week holiday.  It will be felt more at the company or even department level, as workers take off the two days before, the two days after, or both,” he noted.  How workers decide to make the most of the mid-week holiday will depend on the nature of their occupation and the generosity of their employers.  Many employers experience a slowdown in business during the summer months, which might make them more inclined to grant the extra days.  Even those who plan to work on the days straddling the holiday may find their workloads a little lighter, as key decision makers, associates and customers are absent.  What can employers do to make sure the mid-week holiday does not have an impact on the bottom line?  Are workers still reluctant to take long vacations due to concerns over job security?  Why is it important for employers to make sure workers take advantage of vacation time?



While the mid-week holiday may have a temporary impact on workplace productivity this week, the biggest contributor to declining output across the nation this summer could be the heat.  The eastern United Statesis currently baking under temperatures in excess of 100°F, in the wake of severe storms that have left millions without power.  The Midwesthas been experiencing record heat with more high temperatures expected this week.  Across the nation, nearly 2,500 high-temperature records were broken in the month of June.  With most of July and all of August still ahead, most experts are forecasting more heat waves to come.  Heat definitely has an impact on workplace productivity, not only for the millions of workers whose occupations require them to be outside most of the time, but for office dwellers as well.  “People just move slower in the heat,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  “Add to that the impact of power outages and workers staying home to deal with heat-related issues, such as broken air conditioning units, and it becomes a significant drain on productivity.”  A 2003 study by researchers at the Helsinki University of Technology and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that once temperatures rise above 77°F, productivity decreases by 2.0 percent per degree.  So, when the temperature reaches 97°F this week in Chicago, employers can expect a 40 percent drop in productivity.  What can employers and employees do to keep productivity up during heat waves?  Should employers relax dress codes when temperatures soar?  Is increased telecommuting one solution to battling the impact of heat waves?


Lower Gas Prices, Job Stability Could Spark Travel and Jobs

A recent decline in gas prices and improving job security could entice more Americans to take advantage of vacation days during the upcoming peak travel season, which begins with the Memorial Day holiday.  An increase in summer travel is likely to result in more job creation, according to one employment expert, who noted that the leisure and hospitality industry is already seeing a hiring surge.

“While hiring has not exactly taken off, downsizing activity remains relatively low and many employers are actually worried about losing talent.  This is not to say that job security has returned to pre-recession levels, but workers certainly are enjoying more security than two years ago.  Concerns about future layoffs and personal finances may keep many summer travelers close to home.  However, the impact on the economy will be positive, nonetheless,” according to John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Continue reading

Challenger 2011 Vacation Outlook


As the summer travel season kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, the nation’s workers are undoubtedly feeling more confident about taking paid leave.  However, increased travel costs could keep many vacationing workers close to home and diminish the positive impact on the economy, warns one workplace authority.

“Job security is the strongest it has been in several years, as corporate job cutting shrinks to pre-recession lows,” according to John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.  “But stagnant wages and soaring gasoline prices are likely to limit the amount of money people are willing to spend on vacations.”

Challenger statistics on corporate downsizing reveal that planned layoffs are at their lowest level since the late 1990s.  Through the first four months of 2011, employers announced a total of 167,239 job cuts or an average of about 41,800 per month.  That is down 24 percent from a year ago, when job cuts averaged nearly 55,000 per month.  In 2009, employers announced an average of 177,775 job cuts per month between January and April.

The decline in layoffs is boosting workers’ confidence about their job stability.  A quarterly survey of workers by Harris Interactive on behalf of found that in the first quarter only 17 percent of employees were concerned about being laid off in the next six months.  That was down from 26 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

“Workers are starting to regain enough confidence in their employment situation to ask for and actually use vacation time.  And, companies, realizing that they are asking existing employees to work harder for the same or less money, will likely be more than willing to grant their workers’ requests,” noted Challenger.

Improving job stability is already leading to increased travel plans.  A survey from AAA shows that 34.9 million Americans will take trips away from home over the upcoming holiday weekend, the highest number since 2007.  The survey found that 30.9 million of these travelers plan to travel by car.

“However, with gas prices hovering near $4 nationwide and airfares up 22 percent from a year ago and expected to go higher as airlines tack on increased fuel surcharges and baggage fees, many travelers this weekend and throughout the summer may opt to remain close to home.  Destinations with a half-day drive will probably become the preferred vacation spot for cost-conscious Americans,” noted Challenger.

Even if many travelers decide to stay close to home this summer, local economies will still benefit greatly from vacation spending.  Anticipation for a stronger travel season has led to an early hiring surge in the leisure and entertainment sector.  Employers in this category added 742,000 new workers between February and April, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That is largest February-to-April employment gain ever recorded in this industry.

“Hiring in this sector began early this year.  Typically, the biggest employment gains come in May and June.  This year, employers in leisure and entertainment added nearly 400,000 new workers in February and April.  Hopefully, summer travel lives up to expectations or we could see a surge in job losses in July and August,” said Challenger.

As for vacationing workers, Challenger said that while job security is improving, it is still recommended that they keep the lines of communication open with their employers.

“You don’t have to spend a part of every vacation day working, but you want to take your cell phone and laptop and make an effort to occasionally check in with the office.  If you are a team manager, stay in touch with your team members.  Make sure supervisors know your e-mail and cell phone number just in case you are needed,” said Challenger.

“As employers continue the shift toward retention mode, many will be eager to let workers enjoy vacations without interruptions from work, but make no mistake, your efforts to remain connected, even if unnecessary, will be appreciated and remembered.

“Technology has become so portable and so affordable that there really is no excuse anymore for not staying in touch.  Smartphones and tablet computers make it easy to stay connected anywhere with internet access,” he concluded.

More Reports Here: Challenger Press Box

Fuel Costs Cause For Vacation Concern


As summer approaches, workers across the nation are undoubtedly planning upcoming vacations. According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans say taking a vacation is important, and a recent TripAdvisor poll found that 86 percent of Americans plan on taking a vacation this summer, three percent more than last year.  However, with average fuel prices hovering near $4 a gallon, long car trips and cross-country flights may be avoided. Instead, more Americans may opt for a staycation; one in which they stay close to home.  Regardless of whether summer travelers venture afar or stay close to home, this travel season is expected to result in a surge in hiring, noted John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  The leisure and hospitality sector has already added about 150,000 new workers since February, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That is more than double the number added during the same period a year ago.  With companies delaying hiring by asking existing employees to do more, how can workers ensure that vacation plans do not impact job security?  Can working Americans “unplug” while on vacation or should they expect to take “working vacations?”  For job seekers hoping to take advantage of seasonal hiring, where are the best opportunities? 


Lower gasoline prices could boost travel this summer; welcome news for the nation’s tourist destinations.  However, one workplace expert warns that some destinations will fare better than others, as the recession and the fear of layoffs are likely to keep many Americans close to home and well-connected to the office via cell phone and email.

Destinations that rely heavily on tourists who live more than a day’s drive away will probably see a drop in business this summer.  Meanwhile, tourist attractions that rely mostly on local and regional visitors could thrive.

The pace of job cutting has declined every month since reaching a seven-year high of 241,749 in January, according to tracking by the Challenger firm.  However, job cuts remain at recession levels and have many workers in a constant state of anxiety.

We could see a further decline in job cuts this summer, as many companies postpone additional downsizing until the third and fourth quarters.  Unfortunately, the psychological impact on workers has already been established and they are in job-protection mode.

Employees who don’t have enough work to keep them busy are doing whatever they can to appear busy.  For others, the recession and layoffs have increased workloads, as they are asked to do more with less – less support staff, less productivity-enhancing technology and less training.

In either situation, workers will be reluctant to take a long, two-week vacation.  For many, even a weeklong absence from the workplace will produce too much anxiety to actually achieve a stress-free vacation.  They will make due with stretching holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Independence Day, into four- and five-day getaways, thus minimizing the time away from the office. Continue reading