Holiday job-seekers find little cheer at Duluth's Miller Hill MallWhile the national forecast for holiday hiring is for the same level or slightly more than last year, that’s no reason to celebrate. Last year was the worst hiring season since 1989, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
If you’re thinking about getting a holiday retail job, you’re probably too late.
Most stores have done their seasonal hiring.
“We get serious about hiring at the end of September and early October,” said Bryan Brown, manager of the Duluth Younkers store. “The bulk of our hiring happens in October and a little bit into November.”
At Michaels arts and crafts store in Duluth, the holiday shopping rush is already under way.
“As far as hiring, we started probably in September,” store manager Michael Wood said. “We’re pretty much ramped up for the season, same as last year.”
That means adding 10 to 15 seasonal workers. Many are college students with art backgrounds who are eager to work at the store.
While the national forecast for holiday hiring is for the same level or slightly more than last year, that’s no reason to celebrate. Last year was the worst hiring season since 1989, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The roughly 384,000 seasonal retail workers hired nationally was nearly 50 percent less than the 721,000 hired in 2007.
As for expected holiday retail sales, national forecasts have been mixed.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Brown said, noting the weak U.S. dollar means more Canadian shoppers in Duluth.
”We’re hoping for more because last year was awful,” said Cindy Hedlund, owner of Pam’s Hallmark in Miller Hill Mall. “Last year, we had a storm every weekend. That’s what killed us.”
Similar to last year
Most other Duluth area retailers interviewed last week said they also were hiring the same number of workers for the holidays as in 2008.
In all, about 200 retail hires are expected in Duluth this holiday season, about the same as last year, said Drew Digby, a regional labor market analyst for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
But the overall number of retail jobs in Duluth is down 3½ percent from a year ago because of the economy, he said.
Bucking the trend is J.C. Penney in Duluth, which is increasing its holiday hirings to focus on customer service.
“We think it’s an advantage for us to add as much customer service as we can,” store manager Ted Cuva said.
“In our store, we have associates in each area helping customers shop.”
The store has hired about 60 people over and above its regular crew. Usually the store hires 40 people for the holiday season, Cuva said.
“We think it’s a good investment to have more people to help the customer, not just for this holiday but the long-term.”
With unemployment topping 10 percent, competition was expected to be fierce across the country for those holiday jobs.
Betsy Harman, manager of the Job Service office in Duluth, senses that’s true in the Duluth area, where an increased number of job-seekers — from unskilled to highly skilled professionals — are using her agency’s services.
“We have an awful lot of people out there looking for work,” she said. “If there are opportunities for seasonal jobs, they are applying for them.”
At Pam’s Hallmark, Hedlund could be selective hiring her two extra sales positions for the holidays.
“I’ve had a lot of applicants,” she said. “I didn’t put it in the newspaper. They just came in and asked if we were hiring.”
At Younkers, Brown hasn’t noticed whether more applicants are vying for the department store’s holiday jobs.
“We always have a lot of applicants,” he said. “We never have a problem hiring holiday help. We have over 10,000 college students in this market. We employ a lot of students. We’re pleased with a great market for hiring.”