December Retail Hiring Plunges Nearly 90%
Holiday hiring has shifted according to a new study of non-seasonally adjusted Bureau of Labor Statistics data by global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Retail employment dropped nearly 90 percent from November's 462,700 to 53,900 in December, the lowest December total on record. Despite the significant drop-off in December hiring, retailers added a total of 668,400 jobs in the last three months of 2017, a 4.3 percent increase from the 641,000 retail jobs added in the fourth quarter of 2016. “As retailers find the balance between online and in-store experiences for consumers, the restructuring in this industry will likely include more job cuts and slow hiring,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Total Retail's Take: While seasonal retail hiring (Q4) was up 4.3 percent vs. 2016, December saw a significant decrease in hiring. It's interesting to note that as seasonal hiring increased this year, so did retailers’ holiday sales. Is there a parallel between the two? CBS News reported retail sales reached $598 billion, up $33 billion from 2016. Both Target and Kohl’s posted strong sales gains in stores, and online sales reportedly grew an estimated 24 percent year-over-year. With retail in a constant state of change, it's not surprising that there may be dips in hiring numbers from month to month. However, with retailers implementing new technologies, including virtual and augmented reality, I think additional workers will be needed to help shoppers familiarize themselves with these new tools. We'll see how the introduction of new technologies impacts retail hiring in 2018.