U.S. retailers have added 622,500 workers to their payrolls so far this holiday season, according to a new report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s the highest two-month total since 2012. Even a low December hiring total could raise the number of jobs to more than 700,000 in the retail sector alone, a total last posted in 2015.
In October, retailers added 156,100 jobs, up more than 34% compared to October 2018, when they added 115,900 workers. In November 2018, retailers added 494,800 workers, 5.7% higher than this year’s total of 466,400.
Hiring was also strong in the transportation and warehousing sector, although the totals were lower than last year. The sector added 155,700 jobs in October and November this year, down 5.1% compared to 164,100 jobs added in the same period of last year.
Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas commented, “Now may be a good time for those who are long-term unemployed or who have not found something in the last year to pick up a seasonal position. Many of these positions turn into regular, permanent employment after the holiday season.”
He noted that United Parcel Service Inc. (NYSE: UPS) has reported that 35% of their seasonal employees make the transition to permanent employees, and retailer Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) claims that 40% of its seasonal workers stayed on as permanent employees last year.
The solid job numbers come despite an unemployment rate of 3.5%. Challenger noted, “All sectors are having trouble finding talent this year, with the unemployment rate at 3.5% and more available job openings than people currently searching for work. Companies in Transportation and Warehousing, as well as Retail, simply cannot find the people needed for the holidays.”
So far this holiday season, Challenger has tracked nearly 790,000 seasonal hiring announcements, up 10.6% compared to last year’s total about 775,000 in October and November.
Among the companies hiring the most seasonal workers are Amazon (200,000), Target (130,000), UPS (95,000), Kohl’s (90,000) and Macy’s (80,000). In 2012, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) hired 50,000 seasonal workers and Target hired 88,000.
J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP), which hired 40,000 seasonal workers in 2012, added 37,000 this year. Another firm that hired fewer seasonal workers this year is Gap Inc. (NYSE: GPS). Last year the retailer added 65,000 seasonal workers, compared to just 30,000 this year.