• Retail, Seasonal Hiring Returns to Pre-Recession Levels

    January 10, 2012 by

    Seasonal hiring in retail nearly returned to pre-recession levels in 2011, as employment in the sector experienced a net gain of 718,500 over the final three months of the year, according to an analysis of employment data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That marks a 14.5 percent improvement over the 627,500 seasonal jobs added 2010, and falls just shy of the 720,800 added in 2007, when the economy still relatively strong.

    The analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. found that while October hiring was down from a year earlier, strong job gains in November and December fueled the surge. November job gains increased 23 percent from 332,700 in 2010 to 409,800 this year. Meanwhile, December job gains were up 20 percent from a year earlier to 188,600, which is the largest number of retail jobs added in the final month of the year since 196,400 jobs were created in 2005.

    John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas

    John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas

    “Seasonal hiring was better than expected this year, particularly since the recovery was stumbling a bit just as we were approaching the period when retailers make their hiring decisions. However, early sales and other measures to get people out to the stores and malls apparently created increased demand for extra holiday workers. Strong Black Friday sales likely contributed to the December job gains,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

    Retail sales in December were up about 3.4 percent from a year earlier, according to a survey of 22 major chains by Thomson Reuters. Meanwhile, online sales were up 15 percent from a year ago, which helped create jobs outside of retail, as shipping firms like UPS and FedEx bulked up their rosters to help fulfill all of the online orders.

    “Now, the question is whether the consumer will go into post-holiday hibernation. Several retail experts have predicted that this year could see particularly weak January sales, as Americans try to recover from holiday spending, much of which was on credit cards,” said Challenger.

    Credit card use over the Christmas season was up about 25 percent from a year earlier, according to America’s Research Group.

    Over the last several years, retailers have cut more workers in January and February than they hired in the preceding three months. After adding 627,600 seasonal workers over the final three months of 2010, retail employment fell by 739,700 in January and February 2011.

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