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Published: Oct 27, 2021 6 min read
A Walmart employee restocks fruit and vegetables at a Walmart Supercenter

It’s peak holiday hiring season, which means hundreds of thousands of seasonal gigs are open. Each fall, retail- and delivery-adjacent companies ramp up their recruitment efforts to prepare for all the year-end gift giving and festivities.

Once the final Christmas cards ship and the holiday sales end, seasonal work winds down, and historically speaking, those seasonal jobs tend to disappear come January.

But that’s starting to change. This year especially, major seasonal employers are recruiting for a massive amount of permanent positions. Jobs experts say hiring an army of seasonal recruits year in and year out, only to let them go a few months later, is a logistical hurdle for employers. Pandemic-era hiring challenges are only exacerbating the problem.

Hiring announcements from major seasonal employers this year are reflecting the shift to permanent positions. Take, for example, the seasonal hiring plans from Amazon, Macy's and Walmart. Combined, these three companies have in recent weeks announced more than 561,000 job openings. According to Money’s analysis, at least 37% of them are explicitly permanent.

Target and UPS are trying to fill more than 200,000 seasonal openings. Those jobs may not be listed as permanent overtly, but both companies hint that many will be.

“When the holidays are over, many of those team members will have the opportunity to stay onboard,” Target’s hiring announcement states.

Same goes for UPS, which has long boasted a culture of retaining and promoting its seasonal staff.

“Over the last three years, about one-third of people hired by UPS for seasonal package handler jobs were later hired in a permanent position when the holidays were over,” according to the company’s recruitment announcement, “and about 138,000 current UPS employees — nearly a third of the company’s U.S. workforce – started in seasonal positions.”

Why the shift toward permanent jobs?

Why are the country’s major retailers mixing in a ton of permanent positions with their seasonal hiring blitzes? The short answer: the labor shortage, which predates the holiday hiring season.

Pamela Loprest, a senior fellow and labor economist at the Urban Institute, explains that the current job market has employers experimenting with different ways to attract and retain workers. And when they’re competing with one another for the same workers, they have to get creative.

If you’re a job seeker, and especially if you’re interested in service-industry work, this is all good news. You will have a wide array of part-time, full-time, permanent and temporary jobs to choose from this holiday season, and they’re likelier to come with higher wages and better perks than previous years.

“We’re seeing a lot of power on the workers’ side,” Loprest says.

What seasonal job seekers can expect this year

In terms of benefits and pay, 2021 may be the best year yet for seasonal jobs. Here’s what you can expect from major national employers.

Sign-on perks

Many retailers are using signing bonuses to entice new workers. Amazon, for example, is offering bonuses of up to $3,000 in certain areas. Bonuses at Kohl’s run from $100 to $400. UPS’s bonus isn’t cold hard cash, but seasonal workers can earn up to $1,300 toward college expenses if they reach three months of continuous employment.

Fast-tracked recruitment

Employers know you have other options. So the longer they take to hire you, the more likely it is for you to take a job elsewhere. That’s why some companies are promising expedited recruitment. UPS said you may “have an offer in hand within 30 minutes of applying.” Many seasonal jobs at Amazon don’t require traditional interviews. In some cases, you may not even need a resume.

$15 wages or higher

Several major employers have announced company-wide minimum wages of at least $15, including Amazon, Costco, CVS, Target and Walgreens. Walmart hasn’t set a company-wide minimum wage but said its average hourly wage is $16.40.

Long-term work (if you want it)

As mentioned, hundreds of thousands of jobs this hiring season are permanent. Perks of permanent work include job security, possible promotion and access to benefits that are typically not available to temporary workers. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, free college degree programs and paid time off are often reserved for long-term employees.

The tight labor market allows workers this hiring season to be “choosy,” as Loprest puts it.

“Workers should be able to ask for things they want in a job,” she says.“If the employer is unwilling, they might ask another.”

More from Money:

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