Seasonal Hiring: The Talent Crunch

Halloween is just around the corner but for retailers, the need to hire Black Friday and Christmas staff is already a pressing concern. As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, despite starting as early as August, this year many retailers are scrambling to hire holiday-season workers in a tight labor market. How many seasonable workers will be hired? The National Retail Federation reports that anywhere from 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers will be hired in 2016–a number that more or less matches 2015 fall quarter hiring trends.

The 2016 Holiday Hiring Blitz: What the Numbers Reveal

Data culled from reveals that retailers, as well as warehouse firms, like Amazon, started searching for seasonal workers in August, which is a full month early than in 2015. For example, United Parcel started in September, and Macy’s held a national hiring even on September 30. The move to hire earlier than usual suggests that retailers are well aware of the labor market trends and a shortage of qualified workers. New data also reveals that seasonable workers are being onboarded earlier than they have been in decades (on average, in October rather than November). So what’s the rush?

First, holiday shopping is now starting earlier–in many cases even before Halloween. Second, with a strong job market, there are simply fewer people looking for work at the moment and this means fewer qualified personnel, which in turn means more time is needed for training.  The increased need to train workers, of course, also represents more jobs and longer contracts.

Training Seasonal Workers

The Wall Street Journal reports, The need for additional training landed Lucy Grubel a seasonal job at online retailer LLC in mid-September, about a month earlier than her previous holiday gigs. The Chandler, Ariz., firm set the customer-service representative’s start date weeks ahead of its busy period.” This is good news for people like Grubel, who can expect to take home more pay for a longer season of work. But it’s also good news for trainers. The demand for trainers is up and so is the demand for training course developers. Indeed, U.S. businesses are expected to spend millions of dollars training seasonal staff in the coming weeks as they prepare their teams to handle customers leading up to and following the Thanksgiving retail spike, which most economists also expect to be especially lucrative this year.

The Retention of Seasonable Hires

As is usually the case, the people who have the most to gain from seasonable hiring trends are young people, including students, and people who are currently unemployed. For young people, including students, these intense jobs can be a great way to get a foot in the door, gain valuable on the job training and experience, and build up relationships and references that can lead to future work.  While not all seasonable jobs are great (most are entry level), for people just entering the job market, it’s a great time to learn and network on the job and even get a foot in the door of company that may offer future opportunities after graduation.

For the unemployed and under employed, seasonal work is often a double edged sword. While it can get someone back in the job market, it also can distract adults looking for full-time and permanent jobs from pursuing more serious, long-term and high-paying positions. Maggie Sullins, a New Jersey resident who is currently on the job market after taking three years off to take care of a toddler, is facing just such a struggle. “I was offered a job at Macy’s starting November 1. I’m interested, but I’m concerned that working full-time and even clocking overtime will take me away from my current job search and even make me unavailable for interviews with other types of employers who are looking for someone on a permanent basis.” Sullins also admits, however, “After being out of the job market, maybe having a job will give me a better shot with employers?”

While Sullins concerns are not unfounded, it is important to bear in mind that many employers retain up to 10% of their seasonable staff; in a tight job market, this number may even be higher this coming January. As a result, for anyone looking to move into a full-time position, this year’s round of seasonable hiring may be the break needed.


October 25, 2016   Updated :November 16, 2016   recruitment, seasonal hiring, talent   

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