While the nation’s big retailers battle for consumer dollars, they are now also waging a fight for seasonal workers.
Retailers such as J.C. Penney Co. and Kohl’s Corp. already are posting help-wanted ads for their busy season, weeks or even months earlier than usual. That means Americans looking for a seasonal job with a retailer — starting with the upcoming back-to-school season and then through the Christmas holidays — are enjoying their best prospects in years, thanks to the strong U.S. economy and employment picture.
That has put the onus on retailers to hire the best seasonal workers as early as possible because those looking for work have considerable employment choices, analysts said.
Retailers have unveiled plans to hire thousands of seasonal workers, and those announcements “are a reaction to the job market,” said Penelope Brackett, practice development manager at Rise- Smart, an outplacement services firm. “Workers now have options to go somewhere else.”
That might seem surprising after two years of dreary headlines about certain brick-and-mortar retailers closing stores, laying off workers or filing for bankruptcy in the face of consumers’ massive shift to online shopping, notably to Amazon.com.
“There’s been a restructuring going on in a large part of retail” as many of the remaining chains re-sized their operations, said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation trade group. Now, with the U.S. economy showing solid growth, “the jobs machine in the United States has really kicked in, and that includes retail.”
Retailers are competing not only with other retailers for workers but also with other firms that have seasonal hiring surges, such as distribution and shipping companies, said Andy Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a job search and outplacement firm.
“All these [retail] companies are trying to get ahead of the rest of the pack” by hiring early, Challenger said. “The labor market has gotten so tight.”
That means the seasonal market might offer better wages as well
“The retailers are having a hard time keeping people [because] a lot of individuals are leaving to get into higher-paying jobs, such as manufacturing, professional business services and health care,” said Chris Christopher Jr., executive director of IHS Markit, an economics research firm.
Peltz writes for the Los Angeles Times.