Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Retail: October Seasonal Hiring vs. Holiday Retail Sales

by Bill McBride on 10/20/2015 05:09:00 PM

Every year I track seasonal retail hiring for hints about holiday retail sales.  At the bottom of this post is a graph showing the correlation between October seasonal hiring and holiday retail sales.

First, here is the NRF forecast for this year: National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 3.7%

[T]he National Retail Federation ... expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) to increase a solid 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion — significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent. Holiday sales in 2015 are expected to represent approximately 19 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. Additionally, NRF is forecasting online sales to increase between 6 and 8 percent to as much as $105 billion.

ccording to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, in line with last year’s 714,000 new holiday positions.
Note: NRF defines retail sales as including discounters, department stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores, and exclude sales at automotive dealers, gas stations, and restaurants.

Here is a graph of retail hiring for previous years based on the BLS employment report:

Seasonal Retail HiringClick on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year.

Retailers hired about 755 thousand seasonal workers last year (using BLS data, Not Seasonally Adjusted), and 186 thousand seasonal workers last October.

Note that in the early '90s, retailers started hiring seasonal workers earlier - and the trend towards hiring earlier has continued.

The following scatter graph is for the years 2005 through 2014 and compares October retail hiring with the real increase (inflation adjusted) for retail sales (Q4 over previous Q4).

Seasonal Retail Hiring vs. SalesIn general October hiring is a pretty good indicator of seasonal sales. R-square is 0.84 for this small sample. Note: This uses retail sales in Q4, and excludes autos, gasoline and restaurants.  Note: The NRF is just looking at November and December.

When the October employment report is released on November 6th, I'll be looking at seasonal retail hiring for hints on what the retailers expect for the holiday season.