Retailers Slash Holiday Season Hiring

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  • Report shows October employment gains fell 8% from last year
  • Meanwhile, transportation and warehousing jobs show increases
Why the 'Retail Apocalypse' May Just Be Starting

As brick-and-mortar retailers struggle to remain relevant in the new world of e-commerce, they’re hiring fewer seasonal workers.

That’s according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which shows October employment gains fell 8 percent from last year -- a result of fewer hiring announcements from companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The report shows that seasonal retail hiring has fallen each October since 2015.

“The shrinking job gains in retail during the holiday season are indicative of the changing consumer habits and overall transition the industry is experiencing,” John Challenger, the firm’s chief executive officer, said in the report.

More shoppers are shifting online, which promotes seasonal job gains in the transportation and warehousing sectors. Jobs in those categories were up about 2 percent in October, compared with a year earlier. That equates to 111,400 more jobs.

Another possible piece of the equation is the greater use of technology and automation. That’s eliminated the need for some back-office operations, and could lead to less hiring. Still, it’s unclear how the presence of tech in physical stores will shake out.

“This new tech may just change the nature of the work, rather than replace workers altogether,” Challenger said. “Wal-Mart instituted shelf-scanning robots in stores that flag issues for human workers to fix.”

Wal-Mart says it won’t be adding seasonal workers this year, relying instead on its existing workforce to boost hours -- an approach it used in 2016 as well. A number of other retailers, including Target Corp. and Macy’s Inc., have said they plan to hire thousands of workers to cope with higher seasonal demand.

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