Unemployment rate stuck at 9.6 percent. Will holiday hiring help?
Unemployment rate remains relatively high, but demand for temp workers is rising. Holiday hiring will add to the pool of temporary jobs. Still, few firms look set to 'staff up' significantly, as they watch for a shift in consumers' mood.
The unemployment rate for October stayed stuck at 9.6 percent, but one bright spot in the jobs report is the rising demand for temp workers.Skip to next paragraph
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Of the 151,000 jobs added to the economy last month, 35,000, or 23.2 percent, were for temporary services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic. Says Bill Grubbs, chief operating officer of SFN Group, a national temp supplier based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “the pace of growth is the fastest we have ever seen.”
Now the temp industry is getting ready for an even larger hiring spurt – hundreds of thousands of holiday-season workers.
In Denver, Alpine Access is looking to staff up with more than 500 customer service "Internet athletes," who during the holidays will take sales orders and answer technical questions about computer programs.
And in the weeks ahead, some department stores and big-box stores such as Macy's and Best Buy will be hiring tens of thousands of part-time helpers, including gift-wrappers, warehouse workers, and security guards.
All those jobs will help people who are out of work – even if they are not a permanent answer to their prayers. Even so, preholiday surveys indicate that hiring for the holidays, much like the rest of the jobs picture so far, will be sub-par. Actual hiring so far is off by about 10 percent compared with last year, which was a bad year, according to one usually accurate sampling.
"This year looks to be slowest for holiday hiring since the beginning of the recession," says Robert Yerex, chief economist for Kronos, a Chelmsford, Mass., company that samples 67 companies and publishes the Kronos Retail Labor Index, which tracks retail hiring trends.
In its annual forecast, Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says two consecutive months of positive sales gains may give retailers a little more confidence to add workers. But the number of holiday workers added is likely to be less than prerecession levels, Challenger says.
The number of hires during the holiday season can vary greatly. Last year, retail payrolls hit 501,400, up 54 percent from 2008, when holiday hiring fell to a 22-year low with only 324,900 extra workers, Challenger says.