Seasonal Retail Hiring Falters in November as COVID-19 Surges

As the number of COVID-19 infections increases by around 200,000 per day in the United States, Americans, unsurprisingly, are doing less of their holiday shopping in retail stores. That is the leading factor for the year-over-year decline in seasonal hiring by some of the country’s largest retailers.

According to data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, seasonal hiring during October and November fell by 12.5% year over year to 544,900 jobs. The number of jobs added in November fell from 466,400 last year to 302,100, just over 35%.

Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, commented, “Clearly, retailers anticipate low consumer spending and certainly low in-store turnout this holiday season. December would need to be a higher-than-average hiring surge to beat last year’s numbers.” In December 2019, retailers added 79,500 jobs.

Through November, Challenger recorded 759,350 seasonal hiring plans announced by U.S.-based companies, down by 3.9% from the 789,781 hiring plans announced at the same point in 2019. For the entire 2019 holiday season, companies announced 813,781 plans to hire workers.

J.C. Penney, for example, has hired just 1,700 seasonal workers this year, compared with 37,000 last year. Macy’s hiring dropped from 80,000 to 25,000, while hiring at Target dipped from 133,000 to 130,000.

Seasonal hiring in transportation and warehousing is booming, however, as more Americans shop online. In October and November of last year, hiring in transportation and warehousing totaled 155,700, while in the same two months this year, the total rose by 137% to 369,000.

Delivery service FedEx announced plans to hire 15,000 more workers this year, bringing the seasonal hiring total to 70,000. UPS planned to add 5,000 seasonal workers to the 95,000 the company hired last year.