Unemployment is the ultimate Scrooge – mean, miserly, and unforgiving – but this year’s seasonal hiring trends could provide an occasion for cheer for those on the job hunt.
Interviews conducted by Fox News and recent statements from major retailers show a mixed picture for the 10.2 percent of Americans presently listed as jobless.
Seasonal hiring – additions of part-time, short-term or freelance workers between October and Christmas by those firms most directly affected by holiday sales and transactions – has decreased significantly over the last two years. About 769,000 such jobs were added in 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last Christmas, that figure declined to 520,000.
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CareerBuilder.com reports that the outlook for seasonal hiring in the fourth quarter of 2009 is projected to be similar to 2008, with 18 percent of hiring managers planning to hire temporary workers. And at least one powerhouse retail chain, Target, announced it is slowing its use of seasonal employees this year.
But a number of other large companies are hiring and intend to transform at least some of the employees they bring on for a short stint into full-time employees. Chief among these is United Parcel Services, or UPS, which is delivering a lifeline to about 50,000 seasonal workers: drivers, clerks and other workers who can help the company cope with steeper holiday volume in its global delivery services.
Kohl’s, the mid-price department chain, already has begun its holiday hiring spree, adding twenty associates at each of its eight Chicago-area outlets – a move which, if replicated at all of the company’s 1,059 stores, will mean good news for more than 20,000 workers.
Likewise GameStop Corp., the gaming firm with 4,300 stores, is adding 15,000 jobs. Michael’s, a crafts chain, is rolling out the carpet for an additional 10,000 workers and says 10 percent of them can expect to stay on as full-time staff. Jo-Ann Fabric, another craft retailer that operates 750 stores in 48 states, says it is beefing up to the tune of 2,800 seasonal employees.
“Some people don't think to look at some unique places for holiday jobs,” says Daniel Butler, vice president of retail operations at the National Retail Federation. “There are online retail stores that have call centers and distribution centers that hire up during holiday season. Candy producers are very busy during this time, shipping goods to the stores. ... In the communities where you live, you want to look [at whether] there are distribution centers, warehousers for retailers, as well as corporate offices and the stores themselves.”
Sheryl Mark, district manager for the eight Kohl’s stores in the Chicago area, each of which employs 100 sales associates, told Fox News seasonal hires get first look when store managers are in a position to hire full-time staff after the holidays.
“What we are really looking for is that they are going above and beyond in delivering great service for our customers,” Mark said. “We hire these additional associates during the holiday season that can provide the level of service that our customers expect. So those associates that are able to deliver on Kohl’s promise to expect great things – those are the associates that would definitely be considered for permanent placement in out stores.”
Naturally, in a tough employment climate where even a robust economic recovery might be accompanied by stubbornly high rates of joblessness, competition for seasonal positions is proving fierce. At the Best Buy in Falls Church, Va., inventory manager Femio Guzman said the store’s regular job fairs were being attended by unusually high numbers of applicants.
“We had to run longer than expected because we had a huge turnout," he said.
But Guzman, who is filling 40 seasonal positions this year, added that the part-time or short-term work often proves a gateway to full employment.
“In our particular store, we actually have a lot of team members that stay after the holidays," he said. Asked how a holiday hire can ensure his or best shot at that goal, Guzman replied: "It's just as simple as the things any employer would ask for: showing up on time, being in uniform, having a great attitude, taking care of our customers."
Foxnews.com is On the Job Hunt as Americans search for work. Each day, Fox News correspondents across the U.S. will explore new opportunities and challenges people face as they head to work or search for new jobs. Fox News' Cara Schayer and Jessica Weinstein also contributed to this report.