FORT WORTH, Texas — Job seekers interested in holiday season positions should begin their search now, as some companies may already be screening applicants, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in its annual holiday hiring outlook report Monday.
"Even if retailers are not ready to make hiring decisions until November, they may begin screening candidates much earlier," CEO John Challenger said. "Some employers may already be starting."
In 2009, retailers added 501,400 jobs nationally in October, November and December, Challenger said, citing federal data. "That was a 30 percent increase from 2008, when holiday hiring fell to a 22-year low of 384,300 extra holiday helpers," Challenger said.
This year, Challenger said his firm expects to "see further gains in seasonal hiring, but it probably will not achieve the levels we saw in 2006 or 2007, when retailers' holiday payrolls grew by 746,800 and 720,800, respectively."
Some reasons for optimism, Challenger said: Retailers' job cut announcements have fallen 65 percent from a year ago. And while retail payrolls are still lower than they were a year ago, a recent hiring surge resulted in a net gain of 329,400 new workers since February, Challenger said.
The best opportunities for seasonal job seekers will be at the large discounters like Target and Wal-Mart, Challenger said.
He advised job seekers to look beyond the sales clerk positions for available spots.
"The big box stores need extra workers on the floor, but they also need extra workers in their shipping facilities and overnight stocking positions," he said. "Opportunities also exist outside of retail, in areas like catering and with shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx."
He said job seekers should be flexible. "The biggest mistake job applicants make when seeking a holiday position is demanding a specific schedule from prospective employers," Challenger said.
He said holiday job seekers should start their search by contacting friends who work at businesses that might need holiday help.