U.S. consumers are spending more liberally this holiday season and retailers have taken notice, hiring more seasonal workers to help keep pace with demand, new analysis of November jobs data shows.
Holiday retailer hiring surged last month by 423,500 jobs, the largest gain since 2007 when 465,400 workers were added, according to a review of November jobs data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
The number of seasonal workers added to retail payrolls last month rose 27 percent compared to a year ago, when retail employment grew by 332,700. Last month's tally of new hires is also nearly double the number added during the height of the recession in November 2008, the Chicago-based employment-services firm said.
Despite a downward revision in October's data that showed retailers adding 123,700 jobs in the month -- not the nearly 142,000 originally reported last month -- seasonal hiring for the year is still up 15 percent compared to last year, Challenger said.
"While we expected holiday retail hiring to be about the same as a year ago, stronger-than-expected sales on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday could result in a late hiring surge that could push December employment gains up over last year's levels," Challenger CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement accompanying release of the latest report.
In December 2010, Challenger noted, retail hiring grew by 150,800. "Even if retailers simply match that level of hiring activity, seasonal hiring will exceed the 2010 total of 627,600 extra holiday workers," he said.
The increase in seasonal hiring is being driven by strong consumer demand. Retail sales tallied on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, climbed 6.6 percent from last year, while foot traffic in stores rose 5.1 percent.
Further, online sales in the five days ending Dec. 2 -- the first true week of holiday sales -- surged 15 percent to a record $6 billion, compared to the comparable period a year ago, comScore, a research firm that measures Web use, reported Sunday.
Challenger noted that retailers aren't the only businesses busy adding workers. Shipping giants FedEx and United Parcel Service Inc. have announced plans to add a combined 75,000 workers to help deliver packages this holiday season.
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