Workers who count on retail for extra year-end cash may find a tighter job market this year, although some businesses plan to add more staff than last year, a consulting firm says.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. said 200,000 seasonal jobs have been announced so far this year. But hiring announcements have been slow amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Retailers last year added 702,000 seasonal staff, up 12.21% from the 625,600 in 2018. And that didn't include thousands more that transportation and warehousing companies hired, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a news release last week.
“The pandemic has thrown typical holiday hiring patterns off,” said Andrew Challenger, a vice president with the firm. “Last year's strong consumer spending, coupled with low unemployment, led to one of the strongest holiday seasons in recent history.”
Predicting consumer behavior through the end of the year is difficult, Rick Farrant, spokesman for Northeast Indiana Works, said in an emailed statement. It's “no wonder retailers are struggling to figure out hiring strategies,” he said.
“In northeast Indiana, the retail sector has shown improvement in unemployment metrics, but by the end of August it still had one of the largest numbers of continued unemployment claims, ranking fourth with 1,000 claims behind manufacturing (3,459 claims), accommodation/food services (1.981), and administrative and support (1,268),” Farrant said. “It would be a good guess, I think, that there may not be as many opportunities for seasonal work in retail.”
Amazon announced Monday it will add 100,000 workers for the holiday season, a 50% decrease from 2019. It added 200,000 seasonal jobs in 2019, a 100% increase from the 100,000 announced in 2018, Challenger says.
But Amazon has been adding jobs throughout the pandemic, which prompted many people to reduce trips due to stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
In late June, Amazon announced it would open a delivery station in Fort Wayne, creating more than 150 jobs – not including the drivers needed to deliver packages. The local operation will be housed in a 150,000-square-foot shell building off Airport Expressway.And other retailers with strong online shopping structures anticipate high demand, Andrew Challenger said.
Sweetwater Sound, an online musical instruments and equipment retailer based in Fort Wayne, announced Sept. 10 it would add more than 100 distribution center employees. Last year, 166 people were hired for the holiday shopping season, spokeswoman Heather Herron said last week.
Sweetwater two years ago announced plans for a more than $76 million warehouse – and more than 1,000 additional jobs by 2022 – based on the company's sales growth.
The hiring announcement this month was due to expected seasonal business increase. But Herron said earlier that “we'd expect that anyone interested in long-term employment can earn the opportunity to stay with us into 2021 and beyond.”
Even if some retailers remain cautious about hiring workers skilled in that sector could find a fit in other areas, particularly if looking for full-time positions.
Farrant, whose organization is providing free, short-term training, said hiring is “robust in some industry sectors, particularly manufacturing and some segments of health care.
“It's also worth noting that some of the skills possessed by retail workers, such as customer service, are desired in other occupations,” he said.
At a glance
Many companies have not yet announced hiring plans for the 2020 holiday season, but most that have are increasing the number from 2019, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Here's a snapshot:
• Retailer J.C. Penney announced it is adding only 1,700 holiday jobs for this year, compared with 37,000 in 2019. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and this month reached an agreement to sell its retail business to the mall operators Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.
• Michaels has announced 16,000 seasonal jobs (15,000 in 2019)
• UPS announced 100,000 (95,000 in 2019)
• FedEx announced 70,000 (55,000 in 2019)
• 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. will add 10,000 jobs (8,000 in 2019)