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Retailers hiring holiday staff numbers reflective of state of economy

By Kristopher Fraser


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Holiday hiring at retailers has always been a sign of a healthy economy. People are shopping more, seasonal paychecks are putting more money in retail workers' pockets, and retailers have high hopes of ending Q4 with a healthy bottom line.

This year with caution over inflation, holiday hiring is looking like a mixed bag, reflective of retailers' caution about the current recession we are in. Target is adding its usual 100,000 holiday workers. Meanwhile, Walmart is only hiring 40,000 compared to its past 150,000. Amazon has frozen corporate hiring, but plans on hiring a staggering 400,000 retail workers.

Will the holiday hiring spree be what it used to be?

As early as September, CNN reported companies were growing cautious of holiday hiring plans. Employers are already pulling back on the normal holiday hiring spree. Economists say this is a forecast of a recession, but there’s also the argument that we are already in a global recession. The bright side is, despite inflation, consumer spending has held up well. Still, with the recent hike in interest rates by The Federal Reserve, economists and retailers are cautious, as this could still affect holiday spending.

This year is unique compared to last year because much of last year’s uptick in seasonal hiring was due to retailers trying to stave off staffing shortages from rising COVID-19 infections. Many companies are planning on trimming hiring this year, but others, like UPS, are continuing with their usual holiday target of 100,000 hires.

ZipRecruiter chief economist Julia Pollak recently appeared on Yahoo Finance Live to discuss holiday hiring and the state of the labor market. During her segment, Pollak said this is the toughest environment employers can be in for the holidays. Employers are simultaneously concerned about ensuring they have enough staff to meet customer demand for the holidays, and at the same time are also concerned about a possible economic downturn.

The bright side is layoffs and firings remain very low, and jobless claims also remain low. Job gains are also still incredibly broad-based. The downside is consumers are cautious about big-ticket purchases. Car purchases are declining, and car dealerships are laying people off.

Hiring is also interesting right now in other sectors, as there are hiring freezes and job losses in some, but strategic hiring in others. Some companies looking for employees are even speeding up times to hire as part of strategic growth strategies.

Even branches of USPS have recently reported they are swamped as they are preparing to ramp up holiday hiring. Amazon also announced a week ago that 150,000 of the holiday workers they plan on hiring will get a 3000 dollar signing bonus.

One silver lining for this year is that two years after the COVID-19 lockdown, consumers have safely returned to in-door shopping. While holiday sales growth is expected to slow compared to last year due to inflation, growth is still expected. Deloitte estimates growth between 4 percent and 6 percent in 2022, compared to an increase of 15.1 percent during last year’s period, but at least the economy isn’t looking like it will contract.

Holiday hiring, very much like the economy, looks strong in some areas and weak in others. If the holiday hiring period is any indication, the economy will continue being temperamental with highs and lows.

Holiday hiring