Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Seasonal Retail Hiring Outlook: "Dim"

by Bill McBride on 10/06/2010 03:30:00 PM

Typically retail companies start hiring for the holiday season in October, and really increase hiring in November. Here is a graph that shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year and a forecast for 2010.

Seasonal Retail Hiring Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This really shows the collapse in retail hiring in 2008 and the weak recovery in 2009. This also shows how the season has changed over time - back in the '80s, retailers hired mostly in December. Now the peak month is November, and many retailers start hiring seasonal workers in October.

From Stephanie Clifford and Catherine Rampell at the NY Times: Dim Outlook for Holiday Jobs

As the economy sputters, prospects are dimming for unemployed workers who were banking on a seasonal retail job to carry them through the holidays. ...

The recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, forecasts that retailers will add up to 600,000 jobs in October, November and December, compared with a net gain of 501,400 holiday jobs over the same three months in 2009.
Challenger Gray expects that companies may wait to hire until November or December — once they have a feel for how much consumers are willing to spend.
Last year - looking at the graph - retailers held back on hiring in October and waited until November (as Challenger Gray expects to happen again this year). The increase to 600,000 is significant, but still below the levels of 1992 through 2007 - except for the recession year of 2001.

This hiring will be watched closely, and I suspect seasonal hiring will be stronger than in 2009, but well below the 700+ thousand jobs in 2004 through 2007.

Note: Clifford and Rampell also note that the supply chain for retailers is long - and many retailers placed orders earlier this year when the outlook seemed brighter to some (not to those paying attention!).
While retailers are just now making plans for Christmas hiring, they had to make plans for Christmas merchandise months ago, and that lag might create some inventory problems.
Last year the retailers ran lean on inventory, but if this year is slow, there will be plenty of discounting.