Retailers preparing for Christmas crowds are planning to boost their holiday hiring -- but not by much.
With unsteady consumer confidence, high unemployment and a languid economic recovery, a new forecast from consultant firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. predicts a less-than-impressive bump in temporary hires over the next three months.
The job market could experience a seasonal surge of nearly 700,000 workers come the holidays, according to the report. Last year saw a gain of 660,200 winter employees from October through December, a 1.9% boost from 2010, it said.
The current projection is a meager increase compared with the pre-recession period, when companies hired an average of 722,000 additional workers during the holiday season each year between 2004 and 2007.
And "we may never again reach the level of hiring" of the height of the dot-com boom, when employers tacked nearly 850,000 temporary employees onto their payrolls in 1999, John A. Challenger, chief executive of the consultant firm, said in a statement.
Buoyed by promising back-to-school sales, Kohl's recently said it would hire 52,700 seasonal workers this year, a 10% rise. But Target said it would slightly tamp down its hiring this year from 92,000 last winter.
So how to land a holiday job in a market that's not quite booming? Move fast, Challenger recommends.
Seasonal recruiting will likely start this month, he said. And many companies may only take on additional staff if strong sales early in the season make it worthwhile.
Applicants should be in touch with friends already working in retail, he said. They should also inquire at stores where they are frequent customers or show up at shops when business is slow and schmooze managers.
"There is constant churn in the retail industry," Challenger said. "It has some of the highest turnover rates of any industry. You may walk into a store one day and they are not hiring. Walk in the next day and they may have had an employee quit and plan to replace him."
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