U.S. Retailers’ Holiday Hiring Seen Falling 6.9%

Holiday hiring by U.S. retailers may fall about 6.9 percent this year as shaky consumer confidence and more efficient store practices reduce demand for seasonal workers, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Retailers will hire about 700,000 temporary staff this year, down from 751,800 last year, the Chicago-based employment consulting firm said today in a statement. Last year’s hiring was a 12-year high and up 14 percent from 2011, the firm said.

The forecast signals retailers are approaching the holiday season with caution after second-quarter results at companies from Macy’s Inc. (M) to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) showed shoppers were restraining purchases on non-essential items. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment this month fell to the lowest level since April.

“While the economy and the job market are improving, it has now been four years since the recession officially ended and millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed,” Challenger Chief Executive Officer John Challenger said in the statement. “As a result, consumers remain uneasy, which is evidenced by wide monthly mood swings in confidence surveys.”

Retail sales at stores may rise 2.4 percent during November and December, down from a 3 percent increase in 2012 and a 4 percent gain in 2011, research firm ShopperTrak said last week. Store traffic may drop 1.4 percent from last year, the Chicago-based researcher said.

Shorter Season

Deloitte LLP, a New York-based consulting firm, said today that retail sales including online and other non-store purchases may rise as much as 4.5 percent from November through January, in line with last year’s gain.

Stores traditionally start hiring for the holiday season, which starts on Black Friday and ends at Christmas, in October. The holiday shopping period is important for retailers’ sales figures, and this year’s holiday season is six days shorter than last year, making up only 25 days instead of the 31 shopping days in 2012.

Some retailers have begun announcing holiday hiring plans. Wal-Mart said today that it would boost holiday hiring to 55,000, a 10 percent increase from last year’s 50,000 seasonal hires. The company also will move 35,000 workers to full-time status from part-time and another 35,000 to part-time from temporary.

Target Corp. (TGT) said in a post on its website last week last week it would take on about 70,000 workers, 20 percent fewer than a year earlier.

Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) said last week that it plans to hire about 53,000 workers for the holiday season. That number will include 6,400 seasonal positions at distribution centers and about 40 workers per store, the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based retailer said. Kohl’s, which operates 1,158 stores, made a similar number of hires last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Minsi Chung in New York at mchung82@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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