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posted on 10 November 2016

Retail Employment Gains Fall 21% From A Year Ago

from Challenger Gray and Christmas

Despite largescale hiring announcements from numerous major retailers, the number of October employment gains in the sector declined 21 percent from a year ago to 154,600. That was the fewest job gains to kick off the holiday hiring season since 2012.

This year’s decline follows two consecutive years of record job gains in October. In 2015, BLS data show that retail employment grew by 194,800, which represents the largest number of October job gains for the sector on record. That bested the previous record, set the year before, when retailers added 182,800 new workers in October.

It is worth noting that record October job gains in 2014 and 2015 did not lead to record retail hiring throughout the holiday season. In fact, both years saw overall holiday hiring decline. In all, 749,100 retail job were added in the final three months of 2014, which was 5 percent fewer than 2013. Last year, the number of retail jobs added fell another 1.4 percent to 738,800.

“The shrinking number of jobs added during the holiday season does not necessarily mean that the retail industry is shrinking. As of October, there were 15,994,000 Americans employed in this sector. That is up from 15,759,000 a year ago and represents the highest October employment level ever recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“A few trends could be contributing to the fall off in holiday hiring. First, stronger hiring throughout the year and advances in retail technology may mean that stores do not have to hire as many extra workers during the busy holiday shopping season. Secondly, increased online shopping could be shifting the holiday job gains away from retailers toward warehousing, fulfillment, and transportation operations," Challenger added.

Indeed, seasonal hiring announcements tracked by Challenger provide strong evidence of this shift. Over the last five years, holiday hiring plans announced by the likes of Amazon.com, UPS and FedEx have grown significantly. Meanwhile, hiring announcements from retailers have remained relatively flat or declined.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“A third factor that may be leading to the decline in holiday hiring is a lack of available candidates. In a growing number of metropolitan areas, the unemployment rate has fallen below 3.5 percent, which means that the pool of available labor is relatively shallow. Promises of higher wages and steep discounts on store products may not be enough to attract new workers," said Challenger.

One recent MSN news story cites a survey of retailers nationwide conducted by NBC News found that they expect to pay an average of $14 per hour to their seasonal workers this year, up from $10 per hour last year.

JOBS ADDED IN RETAIL TRADE - October, November, December, 2005-2016

Oct

Nov

Dec

TOTAL

% Change

2005

122,300

392,700

196,600

711,600

0.2%

2006

150,600

427,300

169,000

746,900

5.0%

2007

87,900

465,400

167,600

720,900

-3.5%

2008

38,600

213,600

72,700

324,900

-54.9%

2009

45,100

317,100

133,600

495,800

52.6%

2010

149,800

339,200

158,600

647,600

30.6%

2011

134,200

390,600

154,500

679,300

4.9%

2012

138,700

485,400

99,600

723,700

6.5%

2013

159,600

443,100

184,100

786,800

8.7%

2014

182,800

412,200

154,100

749,100

-4.8%

2015

194,800

409,500

134,500

738,800

-1.4%

2016

154,600

AVERAGE

129,917

390,555

147,718

665,945

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., with data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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