Despite headlines of mass layoffs in corporate America and fears of recession, it's still a worker's market for those looking to get temporary holiday jobs as retailers and shippers continue to battle for employees ahead of what they expect to be a record holiday shopping season.
Companies have been drastically speeding up the hiring process to boost their staffing levels amid stiff competition for workers. Some have increased pay to more than $30 an hour in some markets, are offering up to $3,000 in signing bonuses or are holding mass hiring events to secure workers before they get better offers elsewhere, according to companies, recruiters and economists.
Retailers are entering the holiday season amid a swirl of mixed economic signals. Inflation remains at the highest levels in decades and there has been an uptick in mass layoffs and hiring freezes, yet the unemployment rate is still relatively low and consumer spending has continued to be strong. That leaves companies expecting another busy shopping season as they continue to grapple with a competitive job market.
“It still is a very, very tough hiring environment, especially in states and cities with very low unemployment rates,” said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “Employers tell us that they are still really struggling to find qualified candidates and to find motivated willing candidates. So, even when they sign candidates, they’re very worried about ghosting, that people won’t show up on day one, because people have so many alternatives and are taking the best offer that they get.”
Retailers expect holiday sales to be up 6% to 8%, with companies planning to hire 450,000 to 600,000 temporary workers — at the top end, that would be a dip from last year, and if retailers meet the bottom end of their hiring targets, it would be the lowest number of temporary hires since 2009, according to the National Retail Federation.
The holiday hiring comes at a time when retailers were already employing the highest number of workers since 2016 and the number of transportation and warehouse workers are at record highs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before the holiday hiring rush, retailers were already looking to fill 800,000 open positions, according to the retail federation.
But at the same time, that tight labor market has provided a benefit to retailers heading into the holiday season because it has driven up wages — giving consumers more money to spend even in a time of massive inflation.
“The labor market is a real conundrum for employers and is one of the reasons consumers have behaved in such a resilient way because wages are increasing and there’s pressure on the market, and that keeps people spending,” Matt Shay, president of the retail federation, said in a call with reporters earlier this month.
There are some signs though that the labor market is starting to shift in employers' favor. Job seekers are looking for seasonal work at the highest rates since 2019 ,with searches up just over 16% from last year, according to data from Indeed. Meanwhile, seasonal job postings are 2% lower than last year, according to the hiring website.
“We see fewer job postings than we saw last year and more people looking in that smaller pool of postings, and the result of that is workers might have a little less bargaining power than they had in the seasonal market last year,” said Cory Stahle, a senior economist at Indeed. “But we still are in this really tight labor market where even though things have cooled off a little bit, the labor market still remains really tight.”
For UPS, which is hiring 100,000 seasonal workers again this holiday season, it remains a war for candidates.
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