By Elisabeth Buchwald
Employers across the board are having trouble filling open jobs. Many feel it’s a just matter of time before some 7.4 million unemployed Americans return to work — especially now that children above the age of five can get vaccinated against COVID-19.
But for retailers who rely heavily on holiday sales, the clock is ticking extra fast.
More than 943,000 U.S.-based companies have announced plans to hire seasonal workers this year, according to data from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s up 11% from last year and is a record number of seasonal job announcements since the firm began tracking it in 2012.
But workers are hardly jumping at these opportunities.
Retail seasonal hiring was down 9% last month compared to last October, and seasonal transportation and warehouse hiring was down 17% for the same period, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas’ analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Clearly, companies are gearing up for high demand this holiday season, but the worker shortage will complicate matters,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Walmart WMT has said it plans to hire 150,000 workers this holiday season; Amazon AMZN plans to hire 125,000; Target TGT and UPS UPS have each announced plans to hire 100,000, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Some shoppers appear extra eager to hit stores this holiday season. One recent survey by MassMutual found that Americans are optimistic about their finances and plan to spend more than $1,200 on average on holiday-related purchases, and the National Retail Federation forecasts a record high holiday shopping season.
Meeting that demand could prove difficult. Retailers are contending with supply-chain disruptions — a side effect of global labor shortages and factory shutdowns.
“Even if there weren’t issues in the general supply chain this holiday season, the worker supply shortage too will mean longer wait times and unstocked shelves,” Challenger said.
Consumers encountered more than 2 billion out-of-stock messages while they shopped online last month, according to Adobe Analytics /zigman2/quotes/200389143/composite ADBE -2.14% data that analyzed over 1 trillion visits to U.S. retail sites. That’s a 325% increase from October 2019, according to the report.
Last month, retail sales jumped by 1.7% from September, but as much as half of the increase in retail sales last month was tied to higher prices , with inflation at a 31-year high.