September 21, 2009

Seasonal Retail Employment Prospects Improve Slightly

According to the job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., the annual holiday hiring outlook “might improve slightly over last year, but only because 2008 saw the lowest seasonal employment growth in nearly 20 years.”

Retail spending has gone up slightly over the past three months, which may signal to retailers that consumers will spend more freely this holiday season. If the sale growth trend continues into the holiday season, it “could boost seasonal hiring above last year’s meager activity,” said John Challenger, chief executive of the placement firm.

Challenger warned, however, that “the hiring surge may come later than normal this year, as many retailers wait to see how holiday sales are going before adding extra workers.” Given that the economic picture is still far from rosy, most consumers are still operating under a reduced discretionary spending budget. And retailers don’t want to risk “eating into slim profits with extra workers.”

Bottom line? The number of retail seasonal jobs will be up this year over last — but star below the pre-recession figures. If you are in the market for a seasonal job, here are a few tips:

  • Apply early (no later than Halloween)
  • Look to “big box” stores like Target and Walmart
  • Be willing to consider “behind-the-scenes” jobs such as stocking positions in the warehouse vs. sales clerk positions
  • Be flexible with work hours — most stock positions, for example, work overnight
  • Network with friends who work in retail — they may be able to give you the heads up before their store starts its official hiring phase
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