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Retailers’ hiring for holidays strongest since 1999


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Holiday hiring got off to its strongest start in 14 years last month as retail employment grew by 159,500 in October, according to an analysis of the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The 159,500 net new jobs in retail last month marks a 6.7 percent increase from October 2012, when retailers increased their payrolls by a record 149,400. It was the most new hires in the first month of the annual holiday hiring period since 1999, when retail employment expanded by 172,200 in October.

Florida added 8,580 private sector jobs in October, according ADP, a global provider of Human Capital Management solutions in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics. ADP reported 3,040 of those jobs were in the trade, transportation and utilities categories.

The strong start bodes well for a holiday hiring season that stretches from October through December, with the heaviest retail workforce additions, typically occurring in November.

Last year, the three-month hiring period resulted in 751,800 new jobs being added by retailers, the most since 2000 when retailers added 788,200 workers during the final three months of the year.

Last year’s holiday hiring binge brought employment in the retail sector to 15,538,300 in December, the month in which retail employment generally reaches its annual peak. That was the highest number of retail workers in December since 2007, when employment reached 16,156,400.

“Strong October hiring does not necessarily mean that holiday hiring will surpass last year’s level, but it is certainly a good sign. We have seen steady increases in the number of seasonal workers hired since 2008, when recession-ravaged retailers added a paltry 324,900 seasonal workers in the final quarter of the year,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Last year, holiday hiring returned to pre-recession levels as retailers turned in the strongest hiring numbers since 2000, Challenger said.

Challenger added that, so far, the 16-day federal government shutdown does not appear to have had any impact on retail hiring plans.

“We have seen fairly significant hiring plans announced by several major national chains, including Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Kohls and JC Penney. Online retailer Amazon.com is reportedly adding 70,000 holiday workers, up from last year’s 50,000,” he noted.

Consumer confidence remains shaky in light of political discord in Washington, but consumer spending has still managed to see gains. Retail sales, excluding automobiles, gasoline and building materials, increased 0.5 percent in September, improving upon the 0.2 percent increase posted in August.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation expects holiday sales in November and December to increase by 3.9 percent this year, up slightly from 2012’s 3.5 percent holiday sales growth.

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