Unemployed workers hoping for seasonal positions this holiday season may be out of luck. According to the National Retail Federation, retailers on the whole are reporting that they intend to keep seasonal hiring to a minimum, barely topping last year’s 14 year low. The lackluster hiring is due to a disappointing back-to-school season.



While Macy’s, and J.C Penney are looking to hire a slightly increased number of workers, compared to last year, around 65,000 and 30,000 workers respectively, retailers like Walmart, Neiman Marcus and Best Buy say hiring will be at about the same levels compared to last year. John A Challenger CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas sees this as “a slow digging out of a deep recession”, though his firm say they will recruit for around 600,000 seasonal workers this year compared to 501,400 last.

Traditionally, temporary hiring is considered an indication of future full-time employment numbers. But with the economic climate as it is, it’s unlikely at best that many temporary staff will be taken on full-time. This is backed up by firms such as Toys “R” Us and Borders who say that a significant amount of the temporary workers they plan to hire will be in pop-up shops with little to chance of full-time employment after the holiday season.

The jobs offered, which are typically short-term, with unpredictable hours and no benefits, may be of little help to struggling households. The only beneficiaries of this type of hiring may be the local economy as a whole, as the people who take these jobs are often the ones who spend 100% of their income and this may provide a short-lived boost to local businesses according to Françoise Carré, research director at the Center for Social Policy at the University Massachusetts-Boston.

 Although temporary hiring may reduce the risk involved relating to staffing costs, there is one black cloud still on the horizon for retailers and that is inventory levels. Back in spring, when Christmas stock was ordered, there was much more optimism regarding the economy with 9.1% more stores opening, but now with a slow holiday season being forecast there is a chance that retailers will be stuck with more stock than there is demand and that this could really hurt them if Christmas is as slow is feared.

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