The holiday hiring season is already in full swing in the US and the number of seasonal workers hired this year is expected to grow, according to a new forecast from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, citing year-to-year trends and announcements retailers have already made this year:
Last year, seasonal retail employment increased by 668,400 during the final three months of the year, 4.3 percent higher than the 641,000 jobs added in 2016, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). … Last year, BLS data showed that transportation and warehousing employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 279,700, up 13.4 percent from the 246,700 workers in the final quarter of 2016 and 6.6 percent higher than the 262,300 workers hired in this sector in the final three months of 2015.
Companies in this sector are averaging 5.2 million workers this year, compared to 4.9 million in 2015 and 4.2 million in 2008, according to non-seasonally adjusted BLS data.
Challenger points to several companies that have announced they will hire as many holiday season employees as last year or more: Macy’s announced this week that it planned to hire 80,000 seasonal workers, as many as it planned to at the start of the 2017 season (it ultimately hired 87,000 last year). FedEx announced plans for 55,000 holiday hires, a 10 percent increase over last year’s number, and said it would also increase hours for some current employees. The big-box retailer Target, meanwhile, said on Thursday that it would hire around 120,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, 20 percent more than last year, while also raising starting pay by $1 per hour, the Star-Tribune reported:
In a sign of just how proactive employers need to be in the current US labor market, Kohl’s announced last week that it was already taking applications for seasonal positions for the coming autumn and winter, CNN Money reported:
Kohl’s is filling jobs at 300 of its 1,100 US stores for the back-to-school and holiday seasons. Additional jobs at stores and fulfillment centers will come open later in the year. It’s the earliest Kohl’s has ever started hiring seasonal workers, said Ryan Festerling, the store’s executive vice president of human resources.
Seasonal hiring has been increasingly competitive in the US over the past few years, with retailers hiring seasonal help earlier and having a hard time finding the numbers of workers they need. These large employers are hiring store staff by the thousands, but also lots of warehouse and fulfillment roles: a sign of the growing impact of e-commerce. Last year, some companies opted for alternative strategies like giving more hours to existing employees or hiring work-from-home customer service representatives, as means mitigating their need for extra on-site staff in the tight market.
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In light of the competitive US labor market, the coming holiday season has employers hiring early and often to meet their needs for people power, with warehouse and logistics jobs accounting for a large portion of the seasonal spike as online shopping continues to outpace in-store sales and retailers expand their e-commerce operations to suit shifting consumer demand. Not everyone is preparing for the holidays with a massive recruiting drive, however. Walmart, for example, is eschewing the traditional hiring spree this year and instead giving more work to its existing employees, Abha Bhattarai reported at the Washington Post earlier this week:
“These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, and newly created positions such as personal shoppers and pickup associates,” Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our associates have the passion to do even more this year.”
Walmart employees and labor advocacy groups say the move could help address long-standing complaints among workers who say they are underemployed. Many part-time employees, they said, would like full-time work. Walmart considers 34 hours a week full time, when workers receive more benefits. …
Corporate recruiting efforts are already in full swing to make sure the shelves are stocked during this year’s holiday season. Jennifer Smith of the Wall Street Journal reports that some US companies initially posted holiday openings as early as July, with many anticipating an increased need for warehouse and fulfillment workers.
With unemployment at its lowest in years, businesses have been forced to up the ante for seasonal workers, increasing wages, offering greater flexibility, and even transportation support. Smith reports that Macy’s is hiring 20 percent more seasonal workers than last year, as is XPO Logistics, a company with numerous e-commerce clients.
The fact that warehouse and logistics workers are the primary focus of hiring is indicative of increased online orders and declining in-store sales. The Journal reported that online retail sales rose 13 percent in November and December of 2016 while department stores saw a 7 percent drop in sales.
Warehouse hiring has gone up 31,000 over the past year and accounted for 951,000 jobs in August, meaning wages will likely to continue to grow given the shift in retail operations from in-store labor to fulfillment and facilities. Smith cites data from logistics staffing firm ProLogistix showing that the entry-level pay for warehouse workers is expected to be $13.68, a 10 percent increase from non-peak wages and a 5 percent increase from last year.