The holiday hiring season is off to its strongest start since 2006, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. in Chicago.
The latest employment situation report showed that retail payrolls experienced a net gain of 150,900 in October. That is three times greater than October 2009, when just 47,600 retail jobs were added. In 2008, the worst holiday-hiring season in 22 years, retailers added only 38,600 seasonal workers.
To find a similar October kick-off to seasonal hiring, one would have to go back to 2006, when retail payrolls expanded by 150,600. Another 596,200 retail workers were added in November and December, bringing total seasonal hiring to 746,800 that year.
"This is a good sign that retailers feel more optimistic this year. Even if November and December hiring remains flat from a year ago, seasonal job growth will top 600,000 for the first time since 2007," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
In its annual holiday hiring forecast released in September, Challenger predicted that seasonal hiring would improve over 2008 and 2009, but would probably fall short of the job creation achieved in 2006 or 2007 when retail payrolls grew by 746,800 and 720,800, respectively.
"Increased hiring will not make it any easier to find a job for those seeking these types of seasonal positions. The competition remains stiff with so many people out of work. People who may have never considered working in retail previously, may now be willing to do so in light of long-term unemployment," said Challenger.
"Job seekers who apply for positions online or blindly blanket retail outlets with completed applications will lose out to those who take more aggressive steps, such as visiting stores during slower hours and initiating face-to-face interactions with store managers.
"Additionally, while big holiday hiring plans have been announced by such stores as Toys R Us and Macy's, job seekers should not overlook smaller mom-and-pop stores, as well as businesses outside of the retail sector that could see a holiday surge. Restaurants, shipping offices, event venues, caterers, etc., should also be on the target list for holiday job seekers," Challenger advised.