Holiday hiring bounced to a relatively strong start last month with retailers adding 141,500 non-seasonally adjusted jobs in October, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. That nearly matched the 144,100 retail jobs added in October 2010.

"The first month of holiday hiring both this year and last represent vast improvements over the recession years of 2007 through 2009," said CEO John Challenger.

From 2007 through 2009, retailers added just 57,200 seasonal workers for the entire month of October.

The year 2008 alone proved the worst holiday-hiring season in 22 years with retailers only adding 38,600 seasonal workers in October and 324,000 total workers from October through December.

For now, all eyes are on retail activity this month. “November will give us the best indication of how 2011 stacks up when it comes to holiday hiring. That is usually when we see the highest number of jobs added,” Challenger said.

He and other sector watchers, however, said that this holiday season faces some head winds as consumer confidence remains brittle and burdened by weak job gains nationwide and continued signs of anemic economic growth. That affects retailers decision to hire. 

While holiday hiring helps, there are still nearly 14 million unemployed Americans and another 12 million or so who either stopped looking for work or are working part time jobs because they can't find full time work.

“Even if retailers dramatically increase hiring in November, it will not be easy to find a job for those seeking seasonal positions,’’ Challenger said.”People who may have never considered working in retail in the past may now be willing to do so in light of long-term unemployment.”

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