Published December 11, 2023

Retail remains cautious in November

Retailers added virtually the same number of seasonal positions in November as they did in the same month last year, while Transportation and Warehousing companies have added the fewest seasonal positions in October and November since 2019, according to a new analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Graph showing ANNOUNCED SEASONAL HIRING PLANS YTD 2012-November 2023

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., with non-seasonally adjusted data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

“Despite spending, particularly online, we are not seeing employers who would staff up during this period add a lot of employees. This may be due to cost of labor and the fact that many companies expect slower growth heading into 2024,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace and labor expert and Senior Vice President of global outplacement and executive and business coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Retailers added 263,800 non-seasonally adjusted positions in November, according to the BLS, up 0.23% from the 263,200 positions added in November of 2022. So far this season, Retailers have added 413,100, a 1.5% increase from the 406,900 positions added in the first two months of the fourth quarter in 2022.

Added Transportation/Warehousing jobs fall 21% from last year

“The impact of labor disputes and unionization on Transportation and Warehousing companies recently may mean we won’t see as many seasonal shifts as we did in the early 2010s, when online shopping really took off, or during the pandemic years” said Challenger.

Employment in Transportation and Warehousing, which saw record-high employment last December with 7,049,500, has fewer workers this November than in the same month in 2022. In November, the BLS reported 6,872,900 workers, down 53,900 jobs from November 2022.

Announced Seasonal Hiring Plans

Meanwhile, the 15,828,400 Retail employees reported in November 2023 are the most since 2019, when 15,967,100 workers were employed in November.

“In addition to cautious Retailers, many establishments continue to have trouble hiring people in these roles, where flexibility and opportunities for advancement are limited, especially at small and mid-size businesses,” added Challenger.

So far this season, large-scale seasonal hiring announcements, which Challenger has tracked since 2012, are at the lowest point since 2013, when 518,000 hiring announcements were recorded. US-based companies have announced 573,300 seasonal positions in September, October, and November of this year (Table 2).

“These are announced hiring plans, and companies who are cautious or uncertain about the future economy are not going to make a public commitment. In this economic environment, it is not surprising to see fewer plans,” said Challenger.

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