2021 Seasonal Retail Hiring Outlook 

FEW LARGE-SCALE SEASONAL HIRING ANNOUNCEMENTS AS EMPLOYERS WORRY ABOUT FINDING PERMANENT WORKERS

Published September 14, 2021

 

Ahead of the 2021 holiday season, retailers and other seasonal employers find themselves in the midst of a difficult labor shortage, raising wages and offering previously unheard-of benefits such as tuition assistance, child care offerings, and signing bonuses to attract applicants. Despite the challenges, global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. predicts Retailers will add 700,000 workers during the 2021 holiday season.

According to non-seasonally adjusted data in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 1.2 million job openings and 732,000 quits in Retail in July. That’s up from 876,000 job openings and 558,000 quits in Retail in the same month last year.

Permanent Preferred Over Seasonal

“With just a few short weeks from the start of the holiday shopping season, Retailers are announcing permanent hiring plans rather than seasonal ones,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Indeed, Walmart recently announced hiring plans for 20,000 supply chain workers, but has yet to announce seasonal holiday hiring plans. Amazon, which since 2012 has announced an average of over 104,000 seasonal jobs each year, according to Challenger tracking, recently announced plans to hire 55,000 permanent workers. The company hired 500,000 people in 2020, according to an article on Associated Press News. 

2020 Seasonal Employment Numbers

Retail employment has not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. August employment in the sector is down 64,400 jobs from July, according to the latest BLS numbers. It is down 67,800 jobs from February 2020 and 278,100 jobs from the 15,564,200 employed in the industry in August 2019. 

For the 2020 holiday season, Retailers added 736,300 jobs—adjusted down from 788,600—a 10% increase from the 672,300 jobs added in October through December 2019. It is the highest number of jobs added during the holiday season since 2014, when 749,100 jobs were added, according to the BLS.  

Transportation and Warehousing, which has seen employment explode over the last five years as consumers increasingly went online to shop, added 493,000 jobs in October through December 2020, the highest on record, and up 67% from the 295,000 jobs added in the same period in 2019. Employment in this sector at 5,747,700 is up 140,700 jobs from August 2019 and up 1,800 from February 2020.

2021 Holiday Season Hires

US-based companies have announced 190,000 seasonal hiring plans, according to Challenger tracking. This is down from 301,700 hiring plans companies announced at this point last year.

So far this season, UPS announced it would add 100,000 jobs for the holiday season, matching last year’s announcement. Michaels Stores announced 20,000 seasonal workers, up from 16,000 last season. Aldi also announced it would hire 20,000 workers for the holiday season. 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. will hire 10,000 seasonal workers, same as in 2020. The United States Postal Service announced 40,000 workers to tackle the holiday season.

“We will likely see more holiday hiring plans announced over the next month, but with the trouble Retailers and Transportation companies are having attracting workers for normal business periods, it will be interesting to see how many workers these companies will be able to hire,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. 

“The end of the expanded unemployment benefits may spur some workers to take these positions. However, myriad other issues could keep them from filling these roles, such as COVID concerns, vaccination statuses, child care issues, and burnout,” said Challenger. 

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