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Published: Tuesday, 9/24/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Holiday hiring season kicks off

Experts: Retail employment picture beginning to look a lot like 2012

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Seasonal retail hiring this year is expected to fall slightly behind 2012’s hiring numbers. Seasonal retail hiring this year is expected to fall slightly behind 2012’s hiring numbers.
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It is the most wonderful time of the year — for people seeking a little extra cash for the holidays.

Seasonal hiring for the upcoming holiday season is beginning this month, with retailers and others whose work load increases in the fourth quarter starting to take applications for temporary positions.

According to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, seasonal retail hiring this year is expected to fall slightly behind 2012’s hiring numbers, which were a 12-year high, because of shaky consumer confidence and increased efficiency by many store chains.

The numbers could, at best, match 2012 because of retailers getting another early jump on the holiday selling season, the outplacement firm said.

“There are several factors that could keep holiday hiring from reaching last year’s level. While the economy and job market are improving, it has now been four years since the recession officially ended and millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Challenger, Gray. “As a result, consumers remain uneasy, which is evidenced by wide monthly mood swings in confidence surveys.”

In 2012, retail employment increased by a nonseasonally adjusted 751,800 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, an 11 percent rise over the previous year.

That was the heaviest holiday hiring since 2000, when retailers hired 788,200 workers during the final three months of the year.

Many retailers have begun rolling out some Christmas merchandise and begun promoting heavily new layaway programs to entice consumers to shop earlier than ever.

“Just as the holiday ads and decorations appear earlier and earlier each year, we may be seeing earlier holiday hiring,” Mr. Challenger said. “With enough flexible, part-time workers, retailers can handle the wide fluctuations that occur in the last half of the year, starting with back-to-school sales, followed by Halloween, and culminating with Christmas,” he said.

Toledo-based Hickory Farms Inc. has started its seasonal hiring, Chief Executive Officer Mark Rodriguez said.

“We expect our business to grow 10 percent this year and our staffing plans are set to grow approximately 5 percent,” he said.

Hickory Farms has contracted to hire about 6,000 seasonal workers this year and has been interviewing and hiring since the start of September for jobs that will last 10 to 12 weeks. Mr. Rodriguez said hiring is nearly 75 percent complete. The company hires workers to become assembly line operators, customer representatives at its call center, retail supervisors, store team leaders, and sales associates.

At Hickory Farms, seasonal workers are paid between $8 and $18 per hour depending on their positions and previous experience.

Already, several national retailers with stores in the Toledo area have announced their chainwide hiring plans for the fourth quarter. All likely will add jobs locally and most have begun the hiring process.

Meijer Inc., which has 40 stores in Ohio, plans to hire 1,600 seasonal workers for its Ohio stores, or about 40 per store.

Overall, the retailer is hiring 9,000 seasonal workers in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois.

“While many of these opportunities are part-time, these jobs can provide a gateway to a full-time career at Meijer,” said Kevin Wiederhold, vice president of human resources for retail operations. “As we continue to grow, we are frequently looking to fill our ongoing part-time and full-time needs. These positions provide a great opportunity to get your foot in the door and demonstrate success within a growing company,” he said.

Walmart is hiring seasonal workers with the promise that many temporary jobs will lead to permanent employment. Walmart said it will hire 55,000 seasonal associates. It will move more than 35,000 temporary workers into permanent part-time status, and move 35,000 of its part-time workers into full-time jobs.

Toys ‘R’ Us plans to hire 45,000 seasonal workers for its stores and distribution centers, about the same as last year. The company said hiring begins this week and will run through December.

Last year, about 15 percent of those seasonal hires at the toy retailer later were offered full-time employment.

Target Corp. said it plans to hire 70,000 workers, which is a 20 percent drop from a year ago. The discounter said with a smaller seasonal work force, it plans to be more efficient and offer its permanent staff first chance at extra hours.

Meanwhile, department-store operator Kohl’s Corp. said it will hire about 53,000 seasonal workers, or an average of 40 temporary workers per store, which is slightly more than last year.

Kohl’s also will add 6,400 distribution center workers and 350 credit operations workers for the holiday season.

Mr. Challenger said it is not just retailers engaged in seasonal hiring. Last year, FedEx Corp. added 20,000 workers and UPS brought in an extra 55,000 to help with holiday deliveries. Also, smaller businesses such as caterers, shipping companies, restaurants, and movie theaters do a small amount of seasonal hiring, Mr. Challenger said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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