Retailers are dangling perks like higher pay, extra discounts and more flexible schedules to lure temporary holiday workers in a tighter labor market.
Washington’s State Employment Security Division projects more than 12,700 seasonal workers to be hired in the state, compared with 10,542 in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“Seasonal retail hiring across the state is expected to rebound this year after declining the past two years,” said Paul Turek, an economist with the department, in a news release Monday. “Healthier wage growth amidst an improving employment situation should help raise holiday sales to a level that boosts hiring.”
In Pierce County, the state projects 1,637 seasonal hires this year, up from 994 actual hires last year. In Thurston County the projection is for 302 seasonal hires, up from 149 actual hires last year.
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Employes are more determined to lock in their workers earlier. Macy’s and Target are holding their first nationwide recruitment fairs, and others are making it easier to apply for temporary holiday jobs via mobile devices.
“It’s a scramble for people, and we have to get creative,” said Hari Pillai, CEO of Speed Commerce, which plans to hire about 450 workers at its warehouses and call centers this season for clients including Yankee Candle. That’s a 50 percent increase over last year. Pillai noted that he increased pay by 20 percent to 25 percent in tight labor areas like Ohio.
Some companies are also widening their standards. Significantly more companies said they would be more willing to hire temporary workers with criminal backgrounds than two years ago, according to job listing site Snagajob.com.
“It’s reflecting that people have changed their views on what’s good enough,” said CEO Peter Harrison.
Harrison also noted that many of his retail clients, which include companies like arts and crafts retailer The Michaels Cos. and Target Corp., want to have their holiday hiring done by the end of October. In the past, it was complete by early November.
Government figures show that 2.5 million more Americans have jobs as of August compared to a year earlier. The unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, lower than the 5.1 percent a year ago.
Hiring for the final three months of the year should be level with last year, when retailers added about 738,800 seasonal workers, said John Challenger, chief executive of workplace consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was down 1.4 percent from the year before.
But while the overall number of jobs for seasonal workers looks to be flat, the biggest growth area in recent years has been in transportation and warehouse jobs because of the increase in online shopping. Transportation and warehouse employment increased by a non-seasonally adjusted 200,500 workers in November and December last year. Ten years ago, the seasonal job gains for that sector measured just 42,400, according to Challenger’s analysis.
The News Tribune’s Debbie Cockrell contributed to this report.