Low gas prices, steady job gains and bigger paychecks are expected to benefit holiday retail sales this year, but that may not necessarily result in increased seasonal hiring in the sector, according to one forecast.

In its annual retail holiday hiring outlook, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. expects seasonal employment gains to be about the same as a year ago, when retailers added 755,000 to their payrolls from October through December.

Despite a relatively strong economy and high expectations heading into the holiday season, last year’s retail employment gains were 4.0 percent lower than the 786,800 retail jobs added in the final three months of 2013. The 2013 holiday hiring total was the highest since 1999, when retailers added nearly 850,000 extra seasonal workers to their payrolls.

“Once again, most analysts are anticipating healthy holiday sales this year. However, there are several factors that may prevent these strong sales expectations from translating into increased hiring. For one, we have seen increased hiring earlier in the year, which may preclude the need for a lot of extra hiring as the holidays approach,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Retail employment increased by 449,500 from March through August, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was up from 437,000 job gains recorded during the same period a year earlier.

“In addition to steady hiring leading up to the holiday season, changes in the way consumers shop are making it possible for stores to meet increased holiday demand with fewer extra workers. When retailers do add holiday workers, fewer of those jobs are in traditional spots, such as sales clerk or cashier. We are also seeing more jobs holiday jobs added outside of the retail sector,” said Challenger.

Last year, UPS and FedEx announced plans to add a combined 145,000 seasonal workers, nearly double the 75,000 planned hires reported in 2013. Additionally, online retailer Amazon.com, announced plans to hire 80,000 holiday workers for its nationwide network of warehouses in 2014, up from 70,000 the previous year.

“Job seekers hoping to take advantage of seasonal hiring should be prepared to look beyond the traditional retail store fronts. Some of the best opportunities could be in the backroom, handling incoming and outgoing shipments. Job seekers should also look for positions at warehouses and shipping facilities associated with retailers and/or transportation companies.

“There are also many seasonal job opportunities that are unrelated to holiday shopping. Restaurants, caterers, movie theaters, and other entertainment and leisure venues tend to see increased business during the holidays. These establishments are also need extra help to handle that increase,” Challenger advised.

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