October Retail Hiring Update: 200K Jobs Added, Most October Gains Ever Recorded

Holiday hiring got off to its strongest start ever last month, as retailers added more than 200,000 new workers in October. However, the record pace is not expected to continue into November and December, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The number of Americans employed in the retail industry increased by 214,500 in October. That represents the largest number of retail jobs ever added in October, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data going back to 1939.

The October employment gains in retail were 16 percent higher than a year ago, when 185,700 workers were added to these payrolls.

Strong hiring in October does not necessarily signal an overall increase in holiday hiring. Last year’s 185,700 retail job gains in October represented a record high at the time, but employment gains over the entire the three-month holiday hiring period ended up lower than 2013 levels.

Last year, retail employment increased by 755,000 from October 1 through December 31. That was down 4.0 percent from the previous year, when the holiday period saw employment grow by 786,800.

“The last couple of years has seen strong retail employment gains in October, followed by weaker gains in November. The data suggest that retailers have moved up their hiring schedule in recent years, adding more workers in late September and early October,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Since reaching a recent high of 485,400 retail job gains in November 2012, hiring has slowed each subsequent year. In 2013, the number of hires dropped 9.0 percent to 443,100. In 2014, November job gains in retail fell by another 7.0 percent to 414,300.

As of October, a total of 15,797,200 Americans were employed in the retail industry.

“While the bulk of the seasonal hiring has already been completed, it is never too late to find openings. Many of the areas adding seasonal workers, including retail, food service and shipping companies, tend to have high turnover. Because these employers are adding so many workers so quickly, the odds of failed hires increases significantly. They just don’t have the time to make sure the applicant is the best fit for the job. As a result, job seekers may be able to continue to find opportunities well into the holiday season,” said Challenger.

“Job seekers should also look beyond the retail industry. The obvious candidates are shipping companies. UPS and FedEx plan to add about 150,000 seasonal employees between them.

“Additionally, a stronger economy is likely to translate into increased consumer and business spending on holiday parties, gifts, entertainment, etc. So, job seekers should be looking for opportunities with catering companies, party and event organizers, restaurants, theaters and other entertainment venues,” said Challenger.