If the number of attendees at a recent Towne East Square hiring fair is any indication, the upcoming holiday shopping season could be a busy one.
Early indications point toward Americans spending more money this holiday season, which would necessitate more seasonal workers to serve the demand. In an effort to get out in front of the expected bump – the National Retail Federation predicts Americans will spend 3.7 percent more for nonauto-related and restaurant holiday spending this season over last year – Towne East manager Mis Gaston said close to 200 people attended the mall’s seasonal job fair on Oct. 28.
“It was a great turnout,” Gaston said. “This is the first year we’ve had a seasonal job fair, so we don’t have anything to compare it to, but our retailers were happy with the turnout.
“I absolutely expect this to be a busy holiday shopping season.”
Along with the retail industry, tax services and warehouse- and shipping-related businesses also typically look for temporary seasonal help, said Angie Duntz of Workforce Centers of South Central Kansas.
“We start to see an increase in (seasonal) hiring in September and October,” Duntz said. “Employers are still looking for people, though, and we have a number of job fairs coming up.
“With the tax industry, they’ll hire a bit later than retail because their busy time is at the end of January and into February, so there is plenty of time to look into those positions.”
The reasons for pursuing temporary employment can be as different as the people who apply, Duntz said. Some are looking to earn extra money for holiday gift-buying purposes, while others could be students at home for winter break or people simply taking advantage of an opportunity to make some extra cash.
“We see people, too, who are out of work and looking to capitalize on the seasonal hiring taking place,” Duntz said. “It’s not necessarily long-term employment, but what we hear from employers is they will often hire a part-time seasonal person to a permanent position if they’re a good worker. It doesn’t always happen, but it certainly can.”
With the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season – the well-publicized Black Friday day-after-Thanksgiving frenzy – less than three weeks away, holiday commerce is about to kick into high gear. U.S. shoppers are expected to spend about $630.5 billion this holiday season, according to the retail federation, which would represent close to 19 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales total of about $3.2 trillion.
Wal-Mart, one of the world’s largest retailers, announced recently that it plans to hire 900 temporary employees in Kansas this season, part of 60,000 hires planned nationwide. Wal-Mart spokesman Scott Markley said in an e-mail that the company didn’t have specific target numbers for its Wichita-area stores, adding that seasonal hiring is typically done on a “store-by-store basis.”
“Last year, more than half of our seasonal associates stayed with the company in a permanent role,” Markley said. “We have more than 200 store managers who started as a seasonal associate.”
J.C. Penney spokesman Joey Thomas said in an e-mail that the retailer plans to hire about 80 seasonal employees this year for its two Wichita locations at Towne East and Towne West Squares. Thomas said the retailer will actually hire about 5,000 fewer seasonal employees this year than in 2014, though the drop is partly due to the closing of some stores.
The National Retail Federation predicts seasonal hiring in the U.S. in 2015 to finish somewhere close to last year’s estimated total of 714,000 new holiday positions.
On Friday, a government report showed that U.S. hiring increased in October after two weak months, with employers adding 271,000 positions. With the bump, the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to a seven-year low of 5 percent, which could add to the overall feeling that the economy continues to improve several years after a deep recession.
Duntz said she and her Workforce Centers colleagues advise anyone seeking seasonal employment to pursue positions the same as any other job, full or part time.
“We tell people to not do anything different,” Duntz said. “Dress to impress, present yourself well, don’t be on your phone or be distracted and bring resumes.
“There’s always that potential of finding a new full-time job.”
Upcoming Workforce Centers seasonal job fairs
LSI Staffing/HirePrinciple job fair
When: Monday, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Jobs types: Seasonal warehouse, aircraft manufacturing
The Arnold Group job fair
When: Friday, 1 to 3 p.m.
What: Seasonal warehouse ($9 per hour)
Both job fairs at Wichita Workforce Center, 2021 N. Amidon, Suite 1100