Need a seasonal job? The odds are in your favor in this labor market.

Tampa Bay businesses could struggle to find enough qualified workers during the busy holiday shopping season.
Target and some other big retailers plan to hire more seasonal workers than last year.
Target and some other big retailers plan to hire more seasonal workers than last year.
Published Sept. 13, 2019

Anyone looking for temporary work this holiday season is in luck.

Many of the nation’s largest retailers expect to hire more temporary workers, which will intensify the fight for candidates. That could go double for smaller shops and restaurants that have to compete with big-name brands.

Problem is, the labor pool is already tight. Unemployment remains low and job openings across the country have outpaced the number of unemployed workers for 17 months, the longest streak since the federal government starting keeping track. In other words, most everyone who wants a job has one.

That won’t help Target which plans on hiring 130,000 people, up 4 percent from last year. That’s about 70 more workers in each of its 1,800 stores. Pay starts at $13 an hour.

UPS recently announced it needs 100,000 full- and part-time package handlers and drivers to help with the holiday rush. Pay will start at $14 an hour, a company spokesman said. New drivers could earn up to $30 an hour. Even then, the Atlanta-based delivery service said it will have to offer $100 to $250 bonuses in some cities to entice enough workers to sign up for the holidays.

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Earlier this week, Amazon said it has 30,000 open positions, and Wendy’s needs to hire 20,000 more workers as it takes its breakfast menu nationwide. Neither announcement was related to seasonal hiring, but filling those positions will only further tighten the pool of available workers.

The majority of unemployed workers are looking for permanent jobs, surveys show. Many say they would rather hold out for long-term work than interrupt their job search by taking a temporary gig, which further shrinks the number of potential seasonal employees.

Many of those temporary jobs, however, turn into permanent employment. Target estimated that more than 40 percent of the seasonal workers hired last year remained with the company after the holidays. UPS said nearly one-third of its U.S. workers started in a seasonal position.

In Florida, the unemployment rate is a paltry 3.3. percent, the lowest since 2006. For perspective, the state’s average monthly unemployment rate since 1976 is a little more than 6 percent. Another telling statistic: It’s taking less than nine weeks for the majority off laid off workers to land a new job.

In the Tampa Bay area, October marks the start of the busy season for many small retail shops and restaurants. They need extra workers to extend store hours and to help at markets and festivals away from their brick-and-mortar locations. In December 2017 small retailers in Florida averaged $60,970 in sales, 35 percent more than in September, according to an analysis from Womply, a provider of small business software.

Shoppers can feel neglected in a store without enough employees, which cuts into sales. Long check-out lines due to a lack of workers can dissuade shoppers, too.

“The No. 1 issue I hear from local businesses is that it’s tough to find reliable help,” said Ester Venouziou, founder of LocalShops1, which advocates for locally owned businesses in the Tampa Bay area. “Starting next month, pretty much everyone will be hiring, and the pool of qualified applicants really doesn’t seem to have increased much.”

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Florida has an advantage — an abundance of retirees, some of who will happily work for a few months over the holidays without the expectation of permanent employment. The state also has a greater number of working-age residents who haven’t been looking for jobs. They could be enticed off the sidelines.

Don’t be surprised to see more “Now hiring” signs in coming weeks.