Industry News | October 9, 2009

Report Shows Bad Signs for Holiday Hiring

On the heels of a 9.8 percent unemployment rate, a newly released survey shows that the outlook for hourly, seasonal jobs is dim, more than 40 percent below the actual holiday-hiring levels reported just two years ago. Added to that, competition for available jobs is intense, with a majority (54 percent) of hiring managers expecting more applications than last year.

The survey, conducted by third-party research firm Ipsos Public Affairs of 1,005 American managers who have responsibility for hiring hourly workers, finds that each manager, on average, plans on hiring 3.1 seasonal employees this holiday period. This is 16 percent fewer workers than the 3.7 seasonal workers they each intended to hire last year. (These figures account for the 53 percent of managers who don’t plan on making any seasonal hires this year and the 57 percent of managers who didn’t have recruiting plans in 2008.)

And looking back to 2007, the same survey reported that each manager reported hiring an average of 5.6 seasonal employees that year (including those who didn’t hire any workers), making this year’s intentions a 45 percent reduction from previous employment levels.

“It’s hard for job seekers to be overly optimistic about holiday hiring this year,” says Shawn Boyer, CEO of, a Web site for hourly employment. “Back-to-school shopping gave the retail industry some signs of life, and we certainly hope that a bit of a ‘spend’ attitude can carry over into the holiday season. Still, traditional retail outlets and other holiday employers are being understandably cautious as there’s a natural lag between consumer spending and an uptick in hiring. Bearing in mind the tough times we’re experiencing, our survey shows that hiring managers intend to hire more than 40 percent fewer seasonal employees than they hired in 2007, which is 16 percent fewer employees than they projected last year.”

Among the businesses that do plan to hire this year, each manager intends to hire an average of 6.7 employees, which is 26 percent fewer than the nine employees that were expected to be hired last year and a 40 percent drop from the 11.2 employees hired in 2007.

When asked why they did not intend to hire this season, the 53 percent of managers in this category pointed to the ability for current staff to take over additional hours (45 percent), lack of budget for seasonal hires (30 percent), and slower business levels (25 percent) as their reasons for not hiring. Overall, 58 percent of hiring managers expect holiday sales to be even with last year’s numbers, but one quarter anticipate a down season. (Nearly one in five managers—18 percent—expects sales to be better than last year.)

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