Expect strong holiday hiring

  • Wed Sep 17th, 2014 2:58pm

Chicago Tribune

Holiday hiring this year could reach pre-recession levels, according to a report released Wednesday.

Demand for seasonal workers could reach levels not seen since before the recession, thanks to increased consumer spending and job growth across industries, according to the report by Challenger, Gray &Christmas, a global consultancy.

The report said seasonal hiring in the retail sector should “significantly outpace” 2013, possibly reaching 800,000 this year.

UPS is expected to lead the charge with plans to double its workforce to 95,000 workers in the last three months of 2014. Although UPS employees aren’t technically considered workers in the retail sector, the company’s hiring plans suggest a strong demand for the upcoming holiday season, and retailers are expected to follow, the report said.

Holiday hiring has steadily ticked up since 2008, when the sputtering economy led to a 55 percent decline in seasonal retail payrolls. That year was the worst on record, as only 324,900 holiday workers were hired. Last year 786,200 workers were added to the retail payrolls during the holiday season.

“The last two years saw holiday hiring return to pre-recession levels. This year, we could see hiring return to levels not seen since the height of the dot-com boom,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray &Christmas.

Challenger expects holiday spending to benefit from the increase in payrolls, which is averaging 215,000 new workers per month so far this year. “That translates into more people with jobs, which means more holiday spending money,” he said.

But he cautioned that while the indicators look good, holiday hiring is not guaranteed.

“As more people do their holiday shopping over the Internet, the need for extra workers on the sales floors at the malls and in department stores may decline,” Challenger said.

But the shift to online shopping doesn’t necessarily mean fewer jobs, because many seasonal employees work in other parts of the holiday shopping economy: in shipping and warehousing, or in restaurants and movie theaters, which also see business pick up during the last three months of the year.