From October through December last year, U.S. retail payrolls added 660,200 workers according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was barely more than the 647,600 seasonal workers added in 2010.
For 2012, Challenger expects seasonal hiring to be “slightly higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.” From 2004 through 2007, seasonal retail employment added an average of 722,000 jobs during the last three months of the year. During the peak year — 1999 — retailers added nearly 850,000 seasonal workers.
Already this year Kohl’s Corp. (NYSE: KSS) has said it will add 52,700 seasonal workers, Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) said it will add 80,000 to 90,000, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) expects to add about 50,000. Challenger noted that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will add 5,000 seasonal workers and privately held Hickory Farms expects to hire more than 5,200.
Challenger also noted that general merchandise retailers, like Target and Walmart, added 308,600 seasonal workers last year and that clothing and accessories stores added 195,100. Neither of the country’s largest package delivery services, United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) nor FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX), has yet announced seasonal hiring plans, but together the two companies added about 75,000 seasonal jobs last year.
Since 1999 the average number of seasonal hires has been 657,700 according to Challenger. The worst year for hires was 2007, with just 324,900 jobs added.