Fierce Competition for Retail Jobs Expected

As retailers begin adding extra workers for the holiday season, job seekers hoping to be among those hired can expect tough competition, as they contend not only with 15 million out-of-work Americans, but also with the growing ranks of part-time workers and even some full-time workers looking for extra income, according to one workplace authority.
“While we expect holiday hiring to improve over last year, the improvement may be slight. Retailers remain reluctant to eat into profits with higher payrolls costs and probably will be slow to add workers. With a deep and talented labor pool, retailers undoubtedly feel like they can afford to be selective,” said chief executive officer John A. of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
“This means that job seekers will have to bring their A-game. They will have to cast a wider job-search net and use some creative strategies if they hope to find a position for the holidays,” said Challenger.
Last year, retail employment grew by just 384,300 from October through December, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was nearly 50 percent fewer than in 2007, when retailers added 720,800 workers during the holiday months. The 384,300 seasonal workers hired in 2008 represent the lowest holiday hiring figure since 1989, when retailers added just 380,500 workers.
However, better-than-expected back-to-school sales results may increase the likelihood of hiring growth in the sector.
If holiday hiring does increase, retailers will have a large candidate pool. As of September, 15.1 million people were unemployed, including the 1.8 million former wholesale and retail trade workers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The potential labor pool for these jobs also includes the nearly 9.2 million Americans working part-time because they have been unable to find full-time positions. Additionally, there are the 5.9 million Americans who stopped looking for work (and, therefore, not counted among the unemployed) who still want a job.
There may even be competition from people who already hold full-time positions. In September, there were nearly 3.7 million Americans who simultaneously worked full-time and part-time jobs. There were another 250,000 workers whose primary and secondary jobs were both full-time.
“The stronger sales figures heading into the holidays could boost seasonal hiring above last year’s meager activity. However, it may also encourage more people to enter the holiday job market. Job seekers will need to use creative approaches and stellar interviewing skills to stand out from the competition,” said Challenger.
According to Challenger, the best opportunities for seasonal job seekers will be at the large discounters like Target and Wal-Mart, which will be heavily favored by cost-conscious consumers this holiday season. However, job seekers may have to look beyond the sales clerk positions for available spots.
“Holiday job seekers, especially in such a tight labor market, may also find success in other areas including shipping, catering and entertainment. If consumers do decide to start spending around the holidays, these sectors may increase hiring as well,” said Challenger.

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