Hoping to scrounge up extra cash for the holidays? It might be harder to get a seasonal job this year as major companies brace for slower growth in sales.
Several retailers have recently announced they're pulling back on seasonal hiring, the annual recruitment of temporary workers in industries that get busy around the holidays (like merchandising and warehousing).
On Monday, Macy’s became the latest large retailer to announce a reduction, setting a target of 41,000 hires, down from 76,000 last year. Michaels said it is hiring for 15,000 seasonal positions, compared to 20,000 in 2021. And last week, Walmart said it's aiming to bring on about 40,000 workers this holiday season, a significant decrease from the target of 150,000 hires it set previously.
The reason? Folks are expected to feel "sticker shock" when they go shopping for holiday gifts because prices have risen with inflation, says Andrew Flowers, a labor economist for recruitment advertising company Appcast. Companies are concerned Americans will react to these price hikes by spending less money, impacting their bottom lines and reducing the need for extra staff.
“Consumers are going to face a holiday season with higher prices,” Flowers says. “Inflation, and all the knock-off effects of inflation, are going to likely slow consumer spending this season, and whether it's retailers or warehouse employers, they are going to have to respond.”
The reduction in seasonal jobs in the U.S. comes as the labor market has been showing signs of softening in recent weeks, which the Federal Reserve said to expect as it raises interest rates to tamp down inflation. (Generally, as inflation comes down, unemployment surges.)
However, there's yet another trend happening here. As people prepare for a more expensive holiday season, some could be inclined to increase their spending ability by working a seasonal job. From July to August, the labor force participation rate, which includes Americans who are employed and those looking for work, increased by 0.3%.
Sabrina Wnorowski, chief human resources officer at Radial, says the e-commerce company is noticing that it’s getting easier to hire employees. The increased cost of living appears to be driving some Americans to enter or re-enter the labor force, while its competitors are adding jobs at a slower rate, she said.
Similar to years past, Wnorowski says Radial is hiring 17,000 additional temporary workers this season for roles like fulfillment center jobs. She confirms the biggest reason other companies are pulling back on hiring is lower volume expectations for transactions this holiday season in their industries.
How to get a seasonal job
With companies reducing targets for seasonal hiring and the shifts in the labor market, landing seasonal work will likely be more competitive this year than last.
That’s partly because last holiday season was unusually strong for retail and other sectors as consumers returned to retail stores after COVID-19 disrupted the 2020 holiday season. The surplus of seasonal jobs led to a plethora of opportunities for workers.
“Last year was a one-of-a-kind, booming holiday hiring season, and this year is going to be much more back to normal,” Flowers says.
That said, there will still be chances for those who are interested in picking up a seasonal job to do so in the coming weeks.
Even the reduced seasonal hiring numbers are still impressive: Last week, Target said it intends to hire 100,000 seasonal employees, the same number as last year. Dick’s Sporting Goods plans to bring on 9,000 seasonal associates. UPS hopes to add at least 100,000 seasonal employees, which is in line with its targets the last two years, and USPS is hiring 28,000 seasonal employees.
Seasonal job postings tend to accelerate in August and peak in October, so now is the time to start looking. The rush of applications often comes in later and peaks around Thanksgiving, Flowers says.
If you're thinking about finding seasonal work, you can get a leg up on the competition by putting your applications in early. While job site Monster says hiring processes for seasonal jobs are often quicker and less rigorous than recruitment for full-time positions, experts say you should still take your job search seriously. Follow best practices for applying to any job, like polishing your resume and dressing professionally for interviews.