US employers slow down hiring before holiday shopping rush


US companies are hiring fewer seasonal workers this holiday shopping season as persistent inflation worsens the outlook for the retail sector.

Employers posted 8.2 percent fewer holiday openings this year than last year, according to job site Indeed. The drop came even as Indeed reported that searches for seasonal jobs are up 33 percent this year from 2021 to the highest level since 2019.

Macy’s and Walmart have said they plan to hire thousands less holiday workers than last year. Walmart, which is adding 40,000 people this season compared to 150,000 in the same period last year, said because it recruited aggressively earlier this year, “the workforce is stronger leading up to this holiday season than it was last year.”

Brie Carere, FedEx’s chief customer officer, said the company is also scaling back its vacation rentals and expects to handle a lower volume of packages this year.

The National Retail Federation, a trade group, expects retailers to hire between 450,000 and 600,000 seasonal workers this winter, up from 669,800 in 2021. Target, which plans to hire up to 100,000 for the holiday season, reports an increase of 18 percent in applicants for seasonal positions compared to a year ago.

“With this shrinking pool of positions and growing interest from job seekers, it certainly seems like there is some less bargaining power on the part of employees,” said Cory Stahle, an economist at Indeed. “The labor market is starting to cool down a bit compared to last year.”

A year ago, retail employers faced severe labor shortages as consumers, flush with the savings they built up during the coronavirus pandemic, opened their wallets. But overall employment has since risen, suggesting that there is less need for temporary workers. In October, government statisticians counted 15.8 million retail workers, 1.9 percent more than the 15.5 million in the same month in 2021.

FedEx to scale back holiday rentals as it expects to handle fewer packages © Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

The National Retail Federation also forecasts a slowdown in spending, predicting that holiday retail sales would grow 6-8 percent year-over-year to between $943 billion and $960 billion by 2022. That would be higher than the average growth rate over the past year. decade. , but would still be below the 13.5 percent jump in 2021.

With consumer prices up 7.7 percent year-on-year in October, it would also suggest that improvements in retailer sales will barely keep pace with inflation.

Increasing competition for the vacancies that remain has allowed companies to ignore hiring bonuses and other incentives to attract applicants. Wage growth for retail workers slowed from 7.4 percent in January to 5.1 percent year on year in September.

As the job market begins to ease, fewer U.S. workers are quitting: 4.1 million people quit in September, 10 percent down from a peak of 4.5 million in November 2021.

Michael Alexis is one of the employers looking to reduce hiring this holiday season. Last winter, he hired 108 temps, more than doubling the workforce of his corporate events company, The demand for virtual holiday parties has been overwhelming, he said.

But this year he only needs 75, and his recruiters have found them easier. “The market seems more interested in our flexible remote work positions,” said Alexis.

While seasonal rentals may have slowed, it hasn’t stopped. Like last year around this time, Amazon announced plans to hire 150,000 people with an average starting wage of $18 an hour and sign-up bonuses of up to $3,000.

Macerich, a shopping mall operator, has been hosting job fairs across the country to source labor for maintenance and security positions as well as for its store tenants.

“The pressure [to find workers] has eased up a bit,” said Olivia Leigh, Macerich’s executive vice president. “It’s not that the pressure isn’t there, it’s just that it’s not as acute as maybe six months ago because we’ve seen some of the labor market come back.”

UPS, the package delivery group, held a job fair this month in Long Island, New York. Personnel supervisor Jason Pimentel said that even after filling hundreds of job openings on site, he still had about 200 positions to fill at his facility alone.

“It is a tight labor market. It may have cooled down a bit, but the job market is still very tight,” said Matt Lavery, director of talent acquisition at UPS. “It changed by a few degrees. It was 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and now it could be 650 degrees Fahrenheit.

Isaiah Rhodes was one of the job seekers who came to the UPS event. He said he was hired after unsuccessfully applying for openings at Best Buy and Nike stores.

“Before today it was difficult for me because I have no experience,” said Rhodes.

Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York