Challenger's Seasonal Hiring Outlook 2016: Shift from Front-of-Office to Behind-the-Scenes

Target was the first major retailer to reveal its national holiday hiring plans, announcing Monday that it will add nearly 70,000 extra workers in its stores this year. That represents just under 10 percent of the more than 700,000 retail job gains expected this holiday season in a new outlook from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Retail hiring this holiday season is forecast to remain unchanged from a year ago, when seasonal employment in the sector increased by 738,800 during the final three months of the year. Last year’s job gains were 1.4 percent lower than the previous year, when retailers added 749,100, according to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

“The big change we are seeing, however, is that while seasonal retail jobs remain flat or shrink, there has been a marked increase in seasonal job gains in other sectors. The sector with the biggest increase in holiday hiring in recent years has been transportation and warehousing, as more and more holiday shopping is done online,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Indeed, even as Target announced its plans to add 70,000 retail workers, which is unchanged from a year ago, the company reported that it would also be adding 7,500 people in its distribution facilities, which ship online orders and send products to stores.

Last year, BLS data show that transportation and warehousing employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 200,500 workers in November and December. A decade ago, the seasonal job gains for this sector measured just 42,400.

FedEx and UPS, alone, announced plans to add 150,000 extra holiday workers last year. Both are expected to announce hiring plans soon and the expectation is that they will add at least 150,000 between them again this year.

Radial, which operates distribution and call centers throughout North America and Europe is planning to increase its global headcount by 20,000 for the upcoming holiday season, according to a recent report.

“We continue to move from brick-and-mortar toward click-and-order. But even in the internet era of holiday shopping that means that brick-and-mortar fulfillment facilities need seasonal workers,” said Challenger.

“Furthermore, seasonal hiring is not limited to retail or retail-related industries. More and more Americans are giving friends and families experiences instead of material items. The increase in this type of gift-giving means that there are more seasonal employment opportunities at theaters, restaurants, amusement parks, and other entertainment venues,” said Challenger.

Last week, Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee, announced that it will be hiring 300 seasonal workers for its annual signature holiday attraction, which features two million pounds of ice sculptures.

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