Solid sales figures in prior pre-holiday shopping seasons combined with large crowds during the biggest shopping day of the year (AKA November’s “Black Friday”) had previously emboldened many eager employers to hire more seasonal staff leading up to an even busier holiday season. For example, the result of strong consumer demand in 2010—only one year out from the official end of the economic recession—was that hundreds of thousands of Americans were being hired for temporary jobs at retailers across the country—employment many hoped would eventually translate into full-time work.
But fast forward to fall 2011, as many retailers begin testing the waters for another tepid month of consumer confidence by announcing less-than-cheery holiday hiring. In fact, the largest U.S. electronics retailer, Best Buy Co. has announced this week that they’ll hire only about half as many seasonal staff as last year “and increase the hours its regular staffers work as part of its plans for the crucial upcoming holiday season.”
The news comes as Best Buy, which is based in Minneapolis, reported earlier this month that its second-quarter net income fell 30 percent, representing flat income and falling short of analysts' expectations, as the company continues to battle for market share with online retailers and discount stores. "The consumer continues to be cautious," CEO Brian Dunn said in an interview with The Huffington Post at the company's New York Union Square store. "That's not just a blip, that's the new normal."
This trend of increasing hours for regular workers and limiting hiring is also the “new normal” in the new economy, with many seasonal jobs (and hours) that would normally go to struggling numbers of unemployed and underemployed Americans instead being funneled into an increasingly overworked and underpaid workforce in the retail industry.
And so while U.S. companies hired an estimated 600,000 temporary workers during the 2010 holiday season, this year companies like Best Buy will now hire 48 percent less than the 29,000 it hired last year, giving only 15,000 new workers a chance to put a little “Merry Money” in their seasonal savings. Instead, this year they’ll opt for more "experienced and seasoned" workers on hand during the busiest time of year.
But that “talent trend” seems to apply, regardless of whether they hire or not, as employers are finding that seasonal applicants are often overqualified for the positions they’re applying for—a continuing trend in the job market as everyone from laid-off lawyers to beleaguered former businesspeople search for work where and when they can find it. And stores are happier for it, finding that these very experienced employees are more dependable and provide a better quality experience.
Unfortunately, this “experience” is far from jolly for the tens of thousands of workers depending on seasonal employment, who are now finding themselves shut out of the holiday hiring wave.
So, if you’re unemployed, underemployed, and feeling less than festive, and all you wanted for Christmas was a temporary job with the potential for permanency, it might be time to look beyond those holiday hopes, to a more permanent seasonal solution.
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