What’s Seasonal Hiring and Why Are Retailers Scaling Up?

BY Michael Kutch

07 Aug, 2017

What’s Seasonal Hiring and Why Are Retailers Scaling Up?

BY Michael Kutch

With the holidays approaching, retailers prepare to grow their ranks in order to keep up with the influx of shoppers. Massive companies like Walmart and TJX hire in bulk for the holiday season but when the holidays are over, thousands of the contracts they’ve made come to an end.
Seasonal workers help in stores, fulfillment centers, call centers and to make deliveries. To relieve staffing hiccups a good portion of companies bring seasonal employees on full-time. In 2015, Amazon brought on more than 14,000 of their seasonal hires for full-time positions and they plan to bring on more this year, but that’s not always the case.
As much as we’d like to see seasonal workers brought on full time, they come and go and it’s not until next year that they resurface in force. Let’s take a look at the sheer number of people that make this seasonal ‘force’ a true powerhouse.

Let’s Look at The Numbers

At the close of summer when the leaves start falling, conglomerates like Target, UPS and Macy’s release the number of employees they expect to hire; and it isn’t until October to mid-November that they start hiring in full swing. We’ve included data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) so you can see the total holiday season employment in the retail industry from 2000 to 2016.

Seasonal employment has been substantial over the past few years, excluding the recession. Over the last 17 years, the average growth in employment has skyrocketed. Retailers across the country hire over 600,000 employees for the holiday season (Tweet This Stat). The total actual hiring for 2016 has not yet been released but as data suggests the number will most likely be consistent with the past. The NRF projected that the 2016 holiday season was anywhere from 640,000 to 690,000 workers (Tweet This Stat), while other sources projected it required as many as 740,000 workers.
Here’s a look at the number of seasonal hires major US retailers planned to bring on in 2016:

  • Amazon planned to hire 120,000
  • Kohl’s planned to hire 69,000
  • Macy’s planned to hire 83,000
  • Target planned to hire 77,500
  • UPS planned to hire 90,000
  • USPS planned to hire 40,000 seasonal workers in 2016, a jump from the 29,000 seasonal workers they hired in 2015.

Seasonal hiring has followed an upward trend since The Great Recession. USPS, Kohl’s, Target and many of the big retailers have declared that they plan to increase their holiday employment in  2017.

Take into consideration that the data we collected above from Challenger Gray does not include a handful of retail giants who have stores nationwide and count for a substantial number of hires (I.e. Cabela’s, Dicks, TJX, etc.). If Walmart’s count was included in this data set, estimating that they would hire 60,000 seasonal workers, the total would jump from 608,000 to 668,800 – representing the upward trend.

What Happened in 2016

  • In December alone, non-farm employment rose by 156,000.
  • The food and drink industry added 247,000 jobs in 2016, fewer than the 359,000 jobs gained in 2015.
  • Since November, employment growth has averaged 180,000 per month, compared with an average monthly increase of 229,000 in 2015.
  • Non-farm rose by 178,000 in November
  • Non-farm rose by 161,000 in October
  • The Retail Trade added 58,000 jobs in January.
  • Employment in retail trade rose by 317,000 over the course of 2016.

The U.S. Department of Labor revealed that there’s been quite the increase in hiring throughout 2016. From October to January alone nonfarm, the food and drink industry and the retail industry expanded in employment. On the other side of the spectrum, holiday retail sales increased by 4% in 2016. We can conclude that total retail hiring must have been substantial enough to meet and fulfill this growth in sales (as nonfarm did).

Projections for 2017

Amazon plans to hire more than 100,000 workers over the course of 2017. This week Amazon is hosting a job fair across the country to kick off their hiring needs. They plan to bring on 50,000 workers through the event.
As far as year-over-year change, Amazon’s full-time and part-time employees, excluding contractors and temp workers, jumped from 230,800 thousand at the end of 2015 to 341,400 at the end of 2016, and we expect this metric to continue to grow.

As online shopping becomes less expensive and increases in efficiency, warehouse hands and delivery drivers are needed more than ever to keep up with the inflow of demand.
Other than our stomachs, a lot of things grow around the holidays like spending, hiring and online consumer activity. Over the last ten years, there’s been an average holiday-sales-growth of 2.5% (Tweet This Stat) (there’s a seven-year average of 3.4 percent since the recovery began in 2009) and in 2016 alone, holiday retail sales increased by 4%. With the recent and possibly upcoming tax reforms we can expect spending to increase even more in 2017.

How and Why are Retailers Innovating?

There’s a new workforce in town that comes in almost every shape and color. These so called ‘workers’ are robots, and they’ve slowly been creeping into warehouses and manufacturing plants for years. Over the past two decades, automation has doubled U.S. manufacturing productivity. Researchers at Ball State University calculated, “If 2000-levels of productivity are applied to 2010-levels of production, the U.S. would have required 20.9 million manufacturing workers instead of the 12.1 million actually employed.” US manufacturers would have had to employ an extra 8.8 million workers to yield the same level of productivity that automation generates. A number of jobs that are being lost to robots are staggering, but there’s an upside.
Amazon has about 45,000 robots at work in their fulfillment centers, this is roughly a 50% increase over the 30,000 robot’s last fall. However, robots haven’t replaced humans, completely. Amazon employed 341,400 human workers at the end of 2016, this was a 50% increase over the same time last year. Robots are taking jobs, increasing productivity and lowering costs. On the flip side, this has increased demand for delivery and the demand for warehouse personnel.
By offering online ordering accompanied with same day in-store pickup, Walmart has reinvented themselves in order to combat Amazon’s quest for America. Now you can reserve your favorite Walmart items online and pick them up the same day in-store. With online ordering aside, Walmart, along with Sears and Macy’s, is closing a handful of stores across the US. How does this affect employment? According to CNN, Walmart plans to add 10,000 U.S. jobs in 2017.
TJX remains to be an innovative force by creating a sense of urgency for their shoppers. Let’s just say they’ve created major FOMO (fear our missing out) with their retail model, and it’s totally working! Since a majority of their supplies are limited and constantly being updated, they’ve created an urgency for shoppers to visit and purchase an item before it’s gone. This year TJX is launching a new store called HomeSense in Massachusetts. The store offers merchandise that can not normally be found in stores and is forecasted to be a successful new source of revenue.

How Jobble Can Help Retailers Scale Up

The holiday season can be a hectic time for businesses, but your hiring process shouldn’t be. We’ve created a marketplace made up of both businesses and a community of 100,000 people who are ready to work. 
By creating an account and posting jobs you can hand select candidates with profiles that best suit your needs. Once they’ve applied each candidate is prompted with customized interview questions that you’ve created. To make your job easier, we came up with a downloadable list of 100 helpful questions that you can ask in your next job posting.
We could just list out all the steps, but we created an infographic that clearly illustrates the process, from signup to payment.
Oh, one last thing… We know farewells are never easy, which is why we created Teams. So, if you happen to hire a Jobbler that totally crushed it our Teams feature lets you to build and manage a core group people that you’ve previously worked with. With Teams, post jobs privately and message Jobblers exclusively. Having a team in place makes the process individualized, faster and ultimately, less stressful.

It’s Time for The Holidays!

The holidays are for laughter, cheer and letting others know how much you love them. All across the United States families and friends get together at home while employees get together at work. Be it in stores or online, consumers are buying in large quantities and retailers large and small are ramping up their staff in order to keep up with the holiday shopping frenzy. If you’re shopping this holiday season make sure your running shoes are on tight and your fingers are nimble so you can beat the crowds online and in stores!

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