Unemployment is at a seven-year low and the number of people working part-time shrank by 1 million since last September, according to the Labor Department. As the holidays approach, retailers hope people who need seasonal work are still out there. But for temporary employees, those jobs might not be filled with wrapping paper and tinsel, but instead cardboard and forklifts.
It used to be that the person looking for a retail job over the holidays was generally a student or a housewife hoping to make some extra cash to pay for presents. Anita Bhappu, associate professor of retail and consumer sciences at the University of Arizona, said that work force still exists, but more people are working seasonal jobs as a supplement.
“This is a second job or one of several jobs that they’re able to pull in some extra income,” she said. “And that’s ideally why it works both ways, for them and for retailers.”
The model is simple supply and demand. More shoppers are going to be in the store during the holidays, so retailers need more people there.
Kristy Welker, a Target spokeswoman, said Target is adding the same number of seasonal workers it did last year – 70,000.
“What we take into consideration as we determine the number of seasonal team members that we’ll need is really getting a pulse from our current team members first, and give them access to as many hours as they want to work,” she said.
Dan Evans, a spokesman for Nordstrom, said there’s a big role this year for the seasonal worker who isn’t folding sweaters or running the cash register, but is packing that sweater bought online and shipping it.
“Fulfillment is really important,” he said. “That’s a big chunk of it, certainly, and with the new one in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, we’re adding about 400 seasonal roles there.”
As for exclusively online retailers, Amazon announced last month that it will hire 100,000 workers this holiday season.
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