Target has 25,000 fewer employees than a year ago.

In its latest annual report, the Minneapolis-based retailer disclosed that it had about 415,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal workers as of Feb. 3. That is a nearly 6% decline from the 440,000 employees it reported around the same time a year ago.

The shrinking headcount is especially notable because it comes during a time in which one might have expected Target's number of workers to grow because of an additional eight stores across the chain. Target opened 21 stores and closed 13 in the past year. It has a total of about 1,950 stores.

In a statement, the company said its employee count fluctuates every year based on the needs of its business.

"The year-over-year comparison also is influenced by our intentional focus on providing our existing team members with more hours before hiring seasonally," Target said.

That number includes workers in its stores and fulfillment centers as well as corporate employees. It does not include independent contractors, such as delivery people through its Shipt service.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, said Target had discussed eliminating temporary and part-time positions during the holidays in favor of giving more hours to existing workers. But he wondered if the retailer has been paring back on store workers more generally to help improve profits at a time of lower sales.

"I think they have been trimming because one of the things they've been very conscious about is the sales numbers are not great," Saunders said. "So they want to ensure that the profit numbers look good."

He said retailers in general seem to be belt-tightening at a time when sales growth is more challenging.

The tight labor market may also be an additional factor, Saunders said.

"Whenever I go into to a Target store, they've always got signs up that 'We're hiring,' so they probably are finding it difficult to fill some roles," he said, but added that probably only accounts for a small amount of such a sizable reduction.

Target's comparable sales have declined for three consecutive quarters, its first sales dip in several years as consumers have pulled back on some purchases amid higher prices for basic items. Executives said this month that they expect sales to fall again this spring quarter, then rebound later in the year.

At the same time, Target recently said it has found more than $500 million in cost savings in the past year.

The company recently notified dozens of marketing employees that their positions are being cut, but those layoffs were after the annual report's tally.

While Target did not meet its sales targets this past year, it far exceeded its profit goals, which is why salaried employees, including corporate employees as well as store and supply chain leaders, will receive 100% of their bonuses at the end of this month.

Last year, employees received only 50% of their bonuses because the company did not fare as well in reaching its performance goals. The bonus payouts were first reported by Bloomberg.

"Based on Target's performance in 2023, including the $2 billion in additional profit growth our team delivered that exceeded the goals we set at the beginning of the year, we're rewarding our team accordingly," Brian Harper-Tibaldo, a Target spokesman, said in a statement.

The size of Target's overall workforce hit a recent peak of 450,000 employees in 2022. It had been increasing every year since 2017, when it employed 323,000, as it has been adding more stores and building up its supply chain network.

Target used to be the largest employer in downtown Minneapolis but is now the second largest behind Hennepin Healthcare. However, its downtown headcount of 7,100 employees did not change in the past year, according to an annual survey of employers.

The retailer also has a corporate campus in Brooklyn Park.