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Holiday job market expected to be down this year

Nationwide, temporary hires to help with the Christmas retail season will decline about three percent from last year, according to one forecast. If that prediction holds true, the last two months of  the year will be slower than normal at Inland warehouse-distribution facilities.

 

 

U.S. retailers are expected to add 680,000 workers during the upcoming holiday shopping season, according to a recent forecast.

If that forecast is accurate, Christmas hiring this year will be down about three percent from 2021 and five percent from 2020, Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. stated in its annual holiday hiring report.

The analysis, released Sept. 22, is based on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It says retailers who normally make extra hires in November and December are dealing with a number of adverse economic factors this year, including a inflation, fears of a recession and a drop in consumer demand caused by interest rate increases.

That’s why the Chicago-based placement and executive coaching firm is predicting a year-over-year drop of about 20,000 hires.

“A lot of uncertainty is plaguing seasonal employers, which may mean a slower hiring season,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in a statement. “If companies see strong consumer buying in September and October, we might see those large-scale announcements begin.”

At least one major U.S. retailer is apparently not expecting a major holiday shopping season this year.

WalMart recently announce that it plans to hire only 40,000 extra workers for the 2022 holiday shopping season, down from 150,000 the company was predicting last year at this time.

One year ago, Amazon announced it planned make 150,000 season hires. The e-commerce giant has yet to disclose its plans for this year, but it typically doesn’t make that announcement until mid to late October.

Since 2012, Amazon has hired, on average, more than 106,500 workers during the holidays. year, according to the study.

Michaels, the arts and crafts store chain, has announced 15,000 seasonal hires this year, down from the 20,000 it announced one year ago. 1-800-Flowers.com expects to make 8,000 seasonal hires this year, a year-over-year drop of 2,000.

On the positive side, UPS has announced it would add 100,000 jobs for the upcoming holiday season, the same number it announced one year ago. Kohl’s, the department store chain, has also matched its 2021 forecast of 90,000 hires.

Target expects to make 100,000 seasonal hires this year, with a starting pay scale of $15 to $24 per hour, according to reports.

Most retailers have yet to announce their holiday hires, so the outlook could improve in next month or so. But retailers, and the logistics operators that deliver the goods, should approach the 2022 Christmas shopping season cautiously, said Robert Kleinhenz, a Long Beach-based economic consultant.

Because of the pandemic, consumers have spent more than two years buying goods and cutting back on services, like eating in restaurants or going to see a movie. But the pendulum is swinging back to people spending money on services, Kleinhenz said.

“It’s true there are concerns about the economy – the stock market being down, fears of a recession, possibly more interest rate hikes – but those things aren’t what drive [consumer spending],” Kleinhenz said. “There will be a bump in sales during the holidays, but probably not as big as we’ve seen in the past.

“The logistics centers in the Inland Empire, along with the retailers, should be very careful during the next few months.”

U.S. retail has yet to recover fully from the pandemic, which changed shopping patterns and created a severe labor shortage.

During the past two years, a lot of of businesses have taken drastic steps to keep their workforce up, including offering larger salaries and perks to prospective hires, according to Challenger.

“Consumer habits have changed,” Challenger said in the statement. “During the pandemic, online shopping was the way to shop for the holidays. This season will likely see more in-store shoppers. We may see more in-person hiring plans and fewer transportation and warehousing workers.”

That assessment is correct, and it will be especially so this holiday season in the Inland Empire, a market dominated by logistics, said Grace Robertos, branch manager of Helping Hand Staffing Inc. in Rancho Cucamonga.

“Temp hiring will definitely be down because of everything that’s going on with the economy,” Robertos said. “Since COVID, nothing has been the same. A lot of [retailers] are just starting to get their holiday shipments, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to hire more temp workers.”

In the past, Helping Hand has placed some people in temporary jobs during the holidays, but always in warehouses.

“Not many temp agencies place people in stores,” Robertos said. “We’ll still have companies that ask for temp workers, but probably not that many. It’s not busy now, and it will probably slow down from there.”

The labor shortage caused by the pandemic continues to plague the economy, said Cathy Lozano, owner of CL Staffing in Ontario.

“Holiday hiring will definitely be slower this year than it was last year,” Lozano said. “A lot of companies are tightening up, and they’re going to make do with the people they have instead of hiring temps. And you still have a lot of people who aren’t working at all.”

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