Seasonal Hiring Starts Early Amid Tight Labor Market

Seasonal Hiring Starts Early Amid Tight Labor Market

US retailers and other employers of seasonal labor got an early start on holiday season hiring this year, another sign of how much the labor market has tightened, Eric Morath reports at the Wall Street Journal:

Data from job-search site shows retailers, and the warehouse and logistics firms they compete with for seasonal labor, started searching for temporary workers a month earlier than in recent years. This suggests retailers and other firms “anticipate stronger consumer demand and expect that it will be harder to find the people they want to hire,” said Indeed economist Jed Kolko.

Last year, more than one in four retail workers hired in the fourth quarter of 2015 started their jobs in October, the highest share on records back to the 1930s. Companies and analysts say a number of trends are converging. The holiday-shopping season is starting before Halloween for many consumers, rather than the traditional day after Thanksgiving. There are fewer workers available, due to unemployment holding around 5% for the past year. And retailers are competing for the same employees as logistics firms, distribution centers and restaurants during the final months of the year.

SHRM’s Roy Maurer explores how the rapid expansion of e-commerce is helping to fuel this increase in seasonal employment:

Labor market expert John Challenger of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas pointed out that the biggest increase in holiday hiring in recent years has been in transportation and warehousing, as more holiday shopping is done online.

Retailers are beefing up their staffing in warehouses and fulfillment centers to meet the expected 20 percent to 30 percent surge in online spending during the holidays. Target said it would hire 7,500 people in its distribution and fulfillment centers for the holidays, up from about 1,000 from 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that transportation and warehousing employment increased by 200,500 workers in November and December last year. That’s more than four times what it was a decade ago.

“We continue to move from brick-and-mortar toward click-and-order,” Challenger said. “But even in the Internet era of holiday shopping, brick-and-mortar fulfillment facilities need seasonal workers.”