2019 Seasonal Hiring Outlook: Seasonal Hiring Dips in 2018, To Remain Stagnant in 2019

Despite a record number of hiring announcements for the holiday season last year, Retailers added the lowest number of jobs since 2009, 625,600 in the final quarter of 2018, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. With current economic conditions and consumer spending trends, Challenger predicts seasonal hiring will stagnate or fall slightly from 2018.

Seasonal jobs added in Retail in the final quarter of last year were 6.4% lower than during the same period in 2017, when 668,400 jobs were added. This is the lowest number of jobs added since 2009, when Retailers added 495,800 seasonal jobs.

Last year, Challenger tracked 431,000 large-scale hiring announcements by Retailers, the highest number since Challenger began tracking in 2012. That was 37% higher than the 314,950 Retail hiring announcements in 2017. Overall, 714,000 seasonal positions were announced last year, from companies in Retail, Transportation, and Warehousing, 16.3% higher than the 614,129 announced in 2017.

“The shift to online shopping in Retail means traditional Retailers will likely not hire the numbers they once did. However, these holiday jobs seem to be appearing in Transportation and Warehousing, as Retailers rely more and more on fulfillment centers,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Indeed, according to non-seasonally adjusted figures from the BLS, companies in Transportation and Warehousing added 259,000 jobs in the final quarter of 2018. That is down 2% from the 265,200 jobs added during the same period in 2017, but up 57% from the 165,100 jobs added in 2013, the last time the industry added less than 200,000 seasonal jobs.

Already this year, Target, which last year announced the highest number of seasonal jobs from a brick-and-mortar Retailer according to Challenger tracking, announced they plan to add even more jobs this year: 125,000 in-store workers, as well as another 8,000 in fulfillment. UPS announced it would add 100,000 jobs for the holidays, and 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. will add 8,000 jobs.

A number of Retailers, including Lowe’s, Amazon, and Kohl’s, announced seasonal hiring plans over the summer, and it remains to be seen whether they will make large-scale announcements for the holiday season.

“Seasonal hiring is driven primarily by current consumer spending habits. Consumers, at the moment, are spending, with the latest figures suggesting consumers are going further into credit card debt. Unless this changes significantly this month, Retailers will likely hire at similar levels to last year,” said Challenger.

“Perceptions of the current economy, which is not as strong as last year or in 2017, could curtail seasonal hiring plans as well. Although new tariffs likely won’t go into effect at the moment, Retailers will keep a close eye on trade negotiations in October, as they will impact consumers going into the holidays,” he added.