2020 Seasonal Hiring Outlook: Online Shopping Grows But Will Stores Need Personnel?




Retailers added 702,000 jobs for the holiday season in 2019, a 12.21% increase over the 625,600 hires for the 2018 holiday season, 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.

Meanwhile, last holiday season, Retailers, Transportation, and Warehousing companies announced they were hiring 789,781 seasonal positions, 10.61% more than the 714,000 announced in 2018, according to Challenger tracking.

Amazon announced Monday it will add 100,000 workers ahead of this holiday season, a 50% decrease over 2019. But Amazon has been adding jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It added 200,000 seasonal jobs in 2019, a 100% increase over the 100,000 announced in 2018.

“The pandemic has thrown typical holiday hiring patterns off. Last year’s strong consumer spending, coupled with low unemployment, led to one of the strongest holiday seasons in recent history. Despite current high unemployment and ongoing uncertainty, Retailers, particularly those with a strong online shopping infrastructure, are anticipating high demand,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Consumers are spending more online than they did in 2019. To accommodate the increase, online Retailers as well as Transportation and Warehousing companies have been doing a lot of hiring during the pandemic. Shopping online will continue for the holidays, but it is not yet clear if all companies need even more workers to accommodate the holiday sales. Retailers are struggling to figure out how many hires will be made,” said Challenger.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, were $211.5 billion, an increase of 44.5% over the second quarter of 2019, despite a decrease of 3.6% for total retail sales.

Retailer JCPenney announced it is adding only 1,700 holiday jobs for this year, compared with 37,000 in 2019. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, announced last week an agreement to sell its retail business to the mall operators Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

According to non-seasonally adjusted figures from the BLS, companies in Transportation and Warehousing added 295,000 jobs in the final quarter of 2019. That is up 13.68% from the 259,500 jobs added during the same period in 2018.

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Although many companies have not yet announced their hiring plans for the 2020 holiday season, most of those that have are increasing the number from 2019. In addition to the JCPenney and Amazon announcements, 200,000 seasonal jobs have been announced so far this year: 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 last year), 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. will add 10,000 jobs (8,000 in 2019), and L Brands will add 4,000 (2019 N/A).

“This holiday season will likely look different by location and region, due to the differing regulations regarding the virus. While the holidays are usually a time when Retailers are desperate to attract crowds to their stores, one constant with COVID-19 precautions is that most stores are now concentrating on how to provide a safe shopping experience,” said Challenger.

“While retailers may not know exactly how many workers to hire during this period to keep up with demand, they will likely need to create positions and tasks that are unprecedented, such as temperature takers, mask enforcers, and curb-side workers,” he added.

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