What would you do with a $3,000 bonus? Take a trip to Walt Disney World? Well, if you’re working as a chef at the Florida resort this summer, that might be where you got the bonus in the first place. In its effort to fill 3,500 seasonal roles at its sprawling entertainment complex, Disney is offering outsized signing bonuses for some of these hires, including unskilled and part-time employees, Orlando Sentinel business writer Paul Brinkmann reported last week:
A housekeeper hired this year at Disney World’s resorts can get a hiring bonus of $1,250 for a job that pays $10.50 per hour. That’s up from last year’s $500 hiring bonus. And it’s for full-time or part-time hires. Full-time or part-time lifeguards this year can get a $1000 hiring bonus, double what the entertainment giant offered last year, and that is for full-time or part-time jobs, according to job postings. Seasonal lifeguards get a $500 bonus.
Bus drivers can get a $500 hiring bonus – the same as last year. Culinary chefs can get a $3,000 bonus. The bonuses are given after training periods and 30 days on the job.
Universal Orlando, the other major theme park in central Florida, is also hiring 3,000 seasonal workers this year, to whom it is offering “competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages.” Both parks are in the midst of holding job fairs to fill these thousands of positions. Disney World’s double bonuses are just the latest anecdotal indicator of the historically tight labor market in the US today. They also illustrate how the state of the labor market, combined with other trends, is affecting seasonal hiring specifically.
Hiring for both the summer and winter holiday seasons has been starting earlier in recent years as employers competing for a limited pool of talent race to fill their positions as quickly as possible. For the spring that is now upon us in the US and the summer that’s just around the corner, candidates for seasonal work are finding that they have more leverage with employers than they once did: While applicants for part-time and temporary jobs still usually can’t expect to negotiate rewards, staffing agencies have reported more seasonal candidates using their competitive advantage to press for more flexibility in their schedules. The busy Florida resorts, visited by tens of millions of people each year, may not be able to offer their seasonal candidates much in the way of flexibility—but that’s what the money’s for.
Another issue that has been affecting seasonal hiring lately is the Trump administration’s reluctance to significantly expand the H-2B seasonal guest worker visa program. Employers have been clamoring for an overhaul of this program, which provides 66,000 visas a year—a cap that has not been updated since the 1990s—and is a labor lifeline for many businesses in highly seasonal industries, including travel and tourisms. Likely as a result of the administration’s efforts to crack down on foreign hiring and encourage employers to “hire American” instead, seasonal employers have said seeing their applications for these visas rejected at unusually high rates, raising concerns that, like last year, they won’t be able to fill all the roles they are hoping to fill and will lose revenue as a result. Critics of the H-2BB, however, say its recruitment standards are too low and that the shortages of domestic labor it is meant to address are overstated.