Cooling job market doesn’t take the heat off the holiday hiring spree

WASHINGTON — Despite the headlines of mass layoffs on corporate America and recession fears, it remains a labor market for those looking to land temporary holiday jobs as retailers and carriers continue to scramble for employees ahead of what they hope will be a record-breaking holiday shopping season .

To boost their staffing levels amid stiff competition for workers, companies have been drastically speeding up the hiring process, raising wages to over $30 an hour in some markets, offering up to $3,000 in signing bonuses and organizing mass hiring events to secure workers before they leave. get better deals elsewhere, according to companies, recruiters and economists.

Retailers are entering the holiday season amid a whirlwind of mixed economic signals. Inflation remains at the highest levels in decades and there has been an increase in layoffs and hiring freezes, yet the unemployment rate remains relatively low and consumer spending it has remained strong. That leaves companies looking forward to another busy shopping season as they continue to grapple with a competitive job market.

“It continues to be a very, very difficult hiring environment, especially in states and cities with very low unemployment rates,” said Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s chief economist. “Employers tell us they are still struggling to find qualified candidates and to find motivated and willing candidates. So even when they sign up candidates, they’re very concerned about the ghost, that people don’t show up on the first day, because people have so many alternatives and they take the best offer they get.”

Retailers expect holiday sales to rise 6-8%, and companies plan to hire 450,000-600,000 temporary workers; At the high end, that would be a drop from last year, and if retailers hit the low end of their hiring targets, that would be the lowest number of temporary hires since 2009, according to to the National Federation of Retailers.

The holiday hiring comes at a time when retailers were already employing the most workers since 2016 and the number of transportation and warehouse workers is at record levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before the holiday hiring rush, retailers were already looking to fill 800,000 open positions, according to the retail federation.

But at the same time, that tight job market has provided a benefit to retailers heading into the holiday season because it has pushed up wages, giving consumers more money to spend even in a time of massive inflation.

“The job market is a real conundrum for employers and it’s one of the reasons consumers have been so resilient because wages are rising and there’s pressure in the market, and that keeps people spending.” , Matt Shay, president of the retail federation. he said on a call with reporters earlier this month.

However, there are some signs that the job market is beginning to shift in favor of employers. Job seekers are searching for seasonal work at the highest rates since 2019, with searches up just over 16% over last year, according to Indeed data. Meanwhile, seasonal job postings are 2% lower than last year, according to the hiring website.

“We see fewer job postings than we did last year and more people searching that smaller pool of posts, and the result of that is that workers might have a little less bargaining power than they did in the marketplace. seasonal last year,” said Cory Stahle. , Senior Economist at Indeed. «But we’re still in this really tight job market where even though things have calmed down a bit, the job market is still very tight.»

For UPS, which will rehire 100,000 temporary workers this holiday season, it remains a candidate war.

The company has streamlined its hiring process, eliminating face-to-face interviews, so within 25 minutes it can process an application, submit a job offer, and complete the required payroll paperwork for the vast majority of its openings, including front-line workers. warehouse, package handlers and drivers.

“Someone isn’t applying for one job, they’re applying for 10 jobs, and the company that best meets the needs of that candidate will end up winning that candidate,” said Matt Lavery, UPS global director of sourcing, hiring and onboarding. . “We are trying to increase our odds with each candidate being transparent, direct and paying a very good salary.”

The company is on track to meet its hiring goal, but some regions remain particularly hard to find workers, such as Minneapolis, parts of New England like Cape Cod, Denver and surrounding mountain communities.

“It is difficult to give a national vision that is a vision of the whole country. They are really different stories within the country that you have to pay attention to and be very agile to adapt,” Lavery said. «Certain pockets may be a little better than last year, and in some areas it has become extremely difficult.»

Macy’s Inc. has also been speeding up its hiring process with applications taking as little as five minutes and most applicants receiving an offer within 48 hours. The retailer will add 41,000 holiday workers at its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores starting at $15 an hour and offering up to $500 in referral bonuses.

«This speed is imperative during holiday hiring,» John Patterson, Macy’s vice president of talent, said in an email. «While our application process is fast, we are asking important questions. Last year, this improved, centralized hiring process allowed us to hire fewer colleagues from higher talent tiers at more competitive salaries that remained, resulting in a 40% reduction in Rotation.»

Despite Amazon court up to 10,000 jobs at the headquarters, said last month that it plans to add 150,000 seasonal workers with an average starting wage for warehouse and delivery workers of $19 per hour and sign-on bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

The US Postal Service will hire only half as many people this year as last year, but officials say it’s in a better position to staff for the holidays than last year and has increased its automated processes to meet the growing demand. Postal officials assured members of Congress during a hearing earlier this month that they will have the necessary staff for this holiday season and will be able to avoid a scenario like the one in 2020 when the agency struggled to deliver packages for Christmas.

“We never have enough people, I’ve been here 25 years, but we manage. We move people, people work overtime, people do extraordinary things,” Edmund Carley, national president of the United Postmasters and Managers of America, said during the hearing. “We’ve hired over 400,000 people in the last two years and we’re still hiring, so I don’t think I’m fully staffed. We are always working, but we will comply. It will be a successful season, I’m sure.»