Retailers Upping Their Seasonal Hiring

Are retailers anticipating a stronger holiday sales season in 2015?
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Are retailers anticipating a stronger holiday sales season in 2015? As the holiday hiring season gets under way in earnest, that seems to be the case, since the rate at which retailers hire temporary seasonal workers is one important clue about their expectations for the season. A single strong holiday season won’t directly spur retail leasing, but a multi-year run of them encourages stores to expand their space or open more stores. Strong seasonal retail sales also impact industrial markets, since all those Christmas goodies need to be either delivered to stores or, in the case of e-commerce, directly to buyers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, retailers hired seasonal workers in October at the highest level since 1999, some 214,500. In fact, that’s also the first time that October hires increase by more than 200,000 since before the recession. Since October is really just the run-up to seasonal hiring, the real test of the health of this kind of hiring will be in November and December. Last year, retailers hired 414,300 seasonal workers in November, which was better than recent years, but not as robust as in the 1990s. Likewise with December hiring, which came in at 155,000 last year.

Some of the larger retailers are upping their hiring or keeping it roughly the same, though a few are shrinking. Macy’s, for instance, will hire 85,000 workers this holiday season for both the Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s brands, about the same number as in 2014. Kohl’s plans to hire more than 69,000 seasonal employees, up from 67,000 last year, while Target is expected to hire 70,000—the same as last year. Wal-Mart plans to keep its hiring at 60,000 for the season. UPS plans to add slightly fewer than the 100,000 hired last year, while FedEx expects to increase its seasonal hiring by 5,000 this year, up to 55,000.

Not only retailers are planning more seasonal hiring this year. In a recent survey by CareerBuilder of 2,300 hiring managers and HR specialists, fully a third (33 percent) of all companies plan to hire seasonal help this year, up from 26 percent in 2014. That includes information technology workers (10 percent will hire them) and accounting and finance personnel (15 percent will hire them). Finally, 47 percent of employers expect to move some seasonal staffers into full-time permanent roles, up from 42 percent last year.