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Slumping U.S. Retail Holiday Hiring: A Reflection of 2008’s Economic Woes

Reflecting on critical nonseasonally adjusted BLS data, it paints a worrying picture of an anticipated low number of seasonal jobs this holiday season. The situation harks back to the 2008 financial downturn, with the article exploring future hiring predictions, outliers in the analysis, and a few glimmers of hope from companies like 1-800-Flowers.com and Bath & Body Works.

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Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver is a renowned writer, celebrated for his vibrant storytelling and intricate world-building. Beyond being an writer, he's an artist, dedicated to crafting stories that captivate, transform, and linger.
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The recent hiring trend in the U.S. retail industry for the upcoming holiday season is eerily reminiscent of the less-than-rosy hiring practices during the 2008 financial recession. A report by the global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, exclusively given to Reuters paints a grim scenario of a market fraught with increased labor costs and wavering consumer confidence.

The Grim U.S. Retail Forecast: Low Seasonal Hiring

Data analysis reveals that retailers will likely only recruit around 410,000 seasonal employees this holiday season, drawing from nonseasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This figure only slightly surpasses the 324,900 workers recruited during 2008’s final quarter, marking the lowest hiring levels since then.

Analysts report that retailers ushered 519,400 new employees into their fold during 2022’s last quarter. However, this number displays a troubling 26% slump from the corresponding period in 2021.

An Economy on Tenterhooks

Anxiety surrounding a slow-paced economy and dwindling household savings have caused consumers to hold their purse strings tighter this year. Predictions for this holiday season mark the slowest growth in sales in the past five years.

Signs of hiring hesitancy have cropped up as labor market temperatures begin to cool, interrupting the formerly tight status quo of the past three years.

Tracking the Trend: Employers’ Cautious Approach

Challenger, Gray & Christmas note that only 8,000 proposed U.S. retail holiday season hires have been announced by U.S. based companies to date. This figure drastically contrasts with 2022’s 258,201 planned hires declared by the same point.

Andrew Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas’ senior vice president, voiced concern. According to him, it was unprecedented to enter this late into September without substantial hiring predictions from U.S. retailers—an unsettling sign of hiring trend uncertainty.

Not All Retailers Included

Of course, it should be noted that Challenger’s examination doesn’t include every retail company. Kroger, a U.S. retail grocery chain, which boasted plans to hire “thousands” of seasonal employees, and Bath & Body Works fell outside the examined bracket due to tracking practices.

Once more retailers announce their hiring plans, Challenger will update his report, including Kroger. However, current seasonal hiring announcements lag behind 2022’s numbers substantially.

A Glimmer of Hope: Some Hiring Efforts Still Underway

1-800-Flowers.com announced plans to hire over 8,000 seasonal employees across its various brands. These positions span functional areas like production and gift assembly, contact center, distribution, and fulfillment center operations, mainly in cities like Atlanta and states such as Illinois, Ohio, and Oregon.

Bath & Body Works plans to hire about 2,500 seasonal employees for its Ohio-based distribution centers. They entice potential candidates with flexible working hours, a $500 associate referral bonus, and a 40% store-wide discount. Similarly, the body care retailer aims to bring on approximately 30,000 seasonal sales associates for its U.S. and Canadian stores, retaining the same figures as last year.

The Silver Lining: Potential for Long-Term U.S. Retail Employment

While the roles are indeed seasonal, Bath & Body Works spokespeople hint at the possibility of long-term employment, giving a glimmer of hope amidst the muted hiring trends.

Prospects for increased staffing are also rising with Kroger Co’s impending merger with Albertsons Inc. As they gear up for the holiday season, commencing from Thanksgiving and culminating on Christmas day, they hint at adding “thousands” more to their payroll without revealing the specific numbers.

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Whether it’s in retail, e-commerce, manufacturing, supply chain, or healthcare, the hiring clock is ticking. But the overall impression illustrates a cautious, uncertain hiring environment fueled by perturbed consumer behavior and an economic slowdown. This hiring scenario sadly mirrors 2008’s financial recession deterrents, leading many experts to keep a close eye on the unfolding retail atmosphere during this holiday season.

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