Large retailers with local stores are adding temporary jobs for the critical holiday shopping season.
A survey by Philadelphia-based consultant Hay Group suggests more retailers plan to increase payrolls — 36 percent plan to hire more seasonal help, compared with 10 percent last year.
Toys R Us expects to hire 45,000 seasonal workers, 13 percent more than last year. About 400 of these temporary jobs will be at five South Jersey stores, including in Mays Landing, Vineland and Toms River, spokeswoman Jennifer Albano said.
The annual year-end employment boost is modest in summer tourism-driven southern New Jersey, helping to maintain or slightly increase overall employment until the traditional dive in January and February.
“The winter holiday season doesn’t quite make up for the ending of the summer season, but at least it holds off (unemployment) you then see in the first quarter,” said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College.
Boscov’s in Egg Harbor Township will hire 60 seasonal workers, similar to last year, said Donna Suez, human resource manager. The department store interviews in mid-October and adds workers in November for sales, stock and receiving positions.
Kohl’s said it will hire an average of 41 associates per store, or nearly 52,700 in total — 10 percent more than last year.
Macy’s expects to add 80,000 seasonal workers; Wal-Mart more than 50,000.
For the past 10 years, New Jersey’s private sector had its most employees in November and December, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.
“It’s a jolt of energy drink into a person, but it goes away,” said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. “That’s not a bad thing because the alternative is no uptick. We did have very bad retail seasons in 2008 and 2009, and the last couple of holiday seasons have been better.”
The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase about 4 percent this year, slightly higher than the 10-year average but below that of the past two years.
The nation’s largest retail trade group said November and December sales should reach $586 billion.
Much holiday shopping has to do with consumer confidence and sentiment.
Consumers in the region, which has struggled from the slumping casinos, may be more conservative with their purchases, Perniciaro said.
“It may be a little better off than last year, but I think there’s still a sense a lot of things can happen, especially with the casino industry,” he said.
Seasonal hiring and retail spending projections can go hand in hand — companies want enough employees to handle crowds without overstaffing.
The seasonal work force is valuable to companies because of its flexibility, Van Horn said.
“They’re creating a work force like an accordion. It can expand and get smaller on demand, on a week-to-week basis,” he said.
Meanwhile, businesses are lining up their employees sooner, according to a survey from online job site Snagajob.
Nearly 57 percent of hiring managers will finish hiring by late October at the latest, compared with 46 percent last year.
Several economists said they have noticed there seems to be more attention paid lately to companies announcing their seasonal hiring numbers.
Persistent high unemployment is almost certainly driving interest.
Perniciaro said there may be psychological factors at play, too.
Could announcing big hiring plans boost consumer confidence in the economy, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps, Perniciaro said.
“The biggest part of consumer sentiment is people worried about their jobs,” he said. “If you put all these jobs out there — even if it’s just seasonal — people will think it’s not that bad.”
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