Hiring for holiday well under way; experts forecast slightly better year
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 4:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 4:37 p.m.
Holiday hiring is projected to increase slightly as area retailers shift more seasonal jobs out of stores and into warehouses in response to continued growth in online shopping.
Hiring for the seasonal jobs is well under way for area distribution centers preparing to stock stores and is just starting or imminent for customer service positions in stores for job seekers looking for extra spending money for the holidays or trying to get their foot in the door for a permanent job.
The ProLogistix staffing agency is hiring for Wal-Mart distribution centers. The warehouse in Alachua is adding 80 to 90 jobs for the holidays and already has filled 50 or 60, said Jennifer Peterson, market manager for ProLogistix.
The company has seen at least a 5-10 percent increase in holiday jobs over last year, she said.
The problem is the agency needs people with some experience in warehouse logistics or handling stock orders in stores. Out of about 50 people to show up for a job fair at the FloridaWorks One-Stop Center on Thursday, 14 passed the qualifying test, Peterson said. The agency will hold another job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this coming Thursday.
“We’re definitely getting short on candidates,” she said.
Most of the hires have been people who already work at warehouses — often in a lower salary range — and want a second income for the holidays, Peterson said.
The Express Employment Professionals temporary agency is hiring for a major retailer that Gainesville franchise owner Jason Carr would not identify.
He said the agency already has filled 60 warehouse jobs and has 10 to go.
The agency soon will start hiring for in-store jobs.
“We’re hoping to see as many as 100,” he said.
The agency has had dozens of applications for open positions, including from a lot of people who lost construction or office jobs, Peterson said.
“There are still people struggling,” he said. “The economy is still trying to recover. We’re seeing some positive signs, but definitely a lot of people are hurting and looking for work.”
Chicago-based staffing agency Challenger, Gray & Christmas forecasts that seasonal hiring will be up slightly from a year ago.
The retail industry added 660,200 workers from October through December 2011, a 1.9 percent increase over 2010, and could approach 700,000 this year, CEO John Challenger said in a news release.
Kohl’s announced it will add 52,700 jobs this year, up from 40,000 in 2011, including an average of 41 hires per store. The jobs also include an additional 5,700 at distribution centers.
Macy’s plans to add about 80,000 seasonal workers, a 2.5 percent increase from 2011, and Wal-Mart plans to add 50,000, a slight increase, The Associated Press reported.
Toys R Us plans to hire 45,000 additional workers, a 13 percent increase.
The National Retail Federation forecasts a 4.1 percent increase in holiday spending this year, the most optimistic forecast since the recession. Online holiday sales are expected to grow 12 percent, according to Shop.org.
Actual retail sales increased 5.6 percent during the 2011 holidays.
Online job listings showed 154 retail sales jobs in September in the workforce region of Alachua and Bradford counties, up from 119 a year ago, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Retail supervisor and manager job listings showed 181 openings, compared with 117 last year.
Store managers say they are looking for people with positive attitudes to train for seasonal customer service jobs.
“We can teach you the other stuff,” said Brian Jablonski, a team leader at Target in Gainesville.
The store started filling holiday jobs last week and expects to have 75 to 100 additional hires by the second week of November, about average for recent years, he said.
The company announced that it plans to add 80,000 to 90,000 seasonal jobs, down from 92,000 a year ago. The company retained 30 percent of the seasonal workers, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The local store first hires people to unload freight, then adds sales floor and later cashier positions, Jablonski said. The store has kiosks where job seekers can fill out applications.
Sears Holdings Corp. announced Thursday that seasonal hiring would be the same as last year at Sears and Kmart stores.
Allen Crabtree, general manager of the Sears in Gainesville, said he is increasing staffing by 22 percent, 10 percent more than last year. Hiring will start next week and run through the end of the month.
Sales have been “very good” for the past four months, especially in appliances and home electronics departments, “so we’ll probably hire more than usual there,” he said.
Belk expects to add about the same number of jobs as last year and has started hiring for jobs that start in November, Gainesville General Manager Dan Mixson said.
“We’re expecting a slight increase in sales,” he said.