It's not even
Anxious retailers are gambling on the right number of employees to hire, and a huge number of job applicants are desperate for work.
Holiday sales are expected to be down 1 percent from last year. That means retailers must find the right balance: hiring enough seasonal workers to serve customers, but not so many that paying them eats up profits.
Job Web site snagajob.com found that retailers on average plan to hire 3.1 seasonal employees this year — 16 percent less than last year, according to a survey the company hired Ipsos Public Affairs to conduct.
Stores like to hire early so workers are trained and ready by
Other retailers trying to keep costs down aren't hiring at all: 53 percent of managers in the snagajob.com survey said they don't plan to hire any seasonal workers.
But other retailers are forging ahead with optimism.
She said the retailer is benefitting from a shift in consumer behavior: More people are saving money by cooking at home, and they need supplies. Also, many are giving homemade goodies as gifts this year, and they are cutting back on purchases at coffee shops by buying their own coffee and espresso makers.
""We feel like we're in a good position to go into the fourth quarter and to be able to hire,"" Linse said. ""The one thing we don't want to do is to cut our customer service.""
Other retailers are reporting more applicants, too. Snagajob.com said applications in September for seasonal jobs were up 25 percent when compared to last year.
For stores, that's a good thing, allowing them to pick the best workers and save on advertising, Knaack said.
For job applicants, it's depressing.
Although she ideally wants a full-time job in a machine shop, she's also hoping retail experience she had over a decade ago as a teen can help her get a seasonal job. She's applied at
""A lot of people are accepting whatever they can get because the economy is so bad,"" she said.
""I'm just looking for whatever is open,"" he said.
But there's also good news for job seekers.
Just because an applicant hasn't heard back from a job they applied for weeks ago doesn't mean they were rejected, said
, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some retailers are collecting applications and waiting until later in the season when they know exactly how many workers they'll need to hire.
Others say retail experience isn't always a job applicant's most important attribute.
""Experience is helpful, but not required,"" said
He would much rather have someone who has strong customer-service skills and is ""willing to walk up to a big, bad scary stranger when they walk into the store and say, 'How are you doing? What can I help you with?'""
Every year, seasonal jobs are a way for retailers to test potential permanent workers. With an economic rebound coming, that may happen more than ever this year, said
This year, employers in the snagajob.com survey said they'll likely hire 51 percent of seasonal hires for permanent positions, up from 46 percent last year. For that reason and others, McCarthy encourages job seekers to stay upbeat and as professional as possible.
""Take this just as seriously as you would a career full-time search,"" she said.
(c) 2009, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.