Help wanted for the holidays, maybe beyond

Hello, Christmas.

With Halloween in the rearview mirror, retailers who quietly rolled out Christmas goods months ago now will openly court holiday shoppers. And that’s a good thing for Snohomish County residents looking for work.

“Holiday work is a great opportunity for job-seekers to gain some experience while looking for a full-time job,” Paul Trause, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department, said last week.

The department created a holiday jobs website where job-seekers can find seasonal employment listings by geographic area. Retailers aren’t alone in needing extra help for the holidays. Shipping companies such as UPS also are looking for workers.

State economists project a demand for 9,133 holiday workers in the greater Seattle area, which includes Bellevue and Everett. Last year, 8,234 holiday workers were employed in the region.

Snohomish County added about 2,000 jobs between September and December last year, noted Anneliese Vance-Sherman, a regional economist with the Employment Security Department. That’s an improvement over 2009, when seasonal hiring in the county was about 1,300 jobs.

“So far, 2012 has been a strong year for retail employment,” Vance-Sherman wrote in an email.

Employment levels have improved each month this year over the same month in 2011. In September, Snohomish County retailers employed about 900 people more than in September 2011.

Nationwide, retail sales are expected to increase 4.1 percent this holiday season over 2011, to $586.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s the most optimistic forecast the industry association, which represents 3.6 million businesses, has given since the start of the recession.

Matthew Shay, the retail association’s president, acknowledged lingering uncertainty over the economy and the presidential election that could affect consumer spending this holiday season.

“Overall we are optimistic that retailers’ promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers,” he said.

The county’s retail industry has been growing, along with the rest of the economy, at a “slow and steady pace” the past few years, Vance-Sherman noted.

“We expect to see continuing overall growth,” she said.

Retailers listing seasonal openings include Nordstrom, Lane Bryant and Safeway in Lynnwood. The Love Zone advertised a retail position in Marysville, while Big 5 Sporting Goods also sought a retail sales associate.

In early October, Macy’s announced it would hire 80,000 seasonal workers in 2012, a 2.6 percent increase over 2011. On its website, the retailer advertised holiday job openings at stores in Lynnwood, Everett and Bellingham as well as in the Seattle area.

Amazon, which previously has shied from disclosing holiday hiring plans, announced in mid-October that it will add 50,000 workers at fulfillment centers, like the ones in Bellevue and Sumner. Dave Clark, a vice president for the Seattle-based company, expects to keep thousands of temporary workers on in full-time positions, he said in a statement.

Shipping giant UPS also advertised “driver helper” positions in Everett, Marysville, Arlington and Lynnwood.

Visit the Employment Security Department’s holiday hiring website: www.wa.gov/esd/holidayjobs.

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