Retailers during the upcoming holiday season could find themselves without enough seasonal elves to stock their shelves.
More importantly, they could find themselves without enough helpers to process those increasingly crucial, and labor intensive “buy online, pick up in store”, and curbside delivery orders.
Competition for seasonal retail workers is expected to be fiercer than ever this year, fueled by low unemployment and forecasts for healthy holiday sales. That competition, and new digital tools that let seasonal employees shop around for the best-paying part-time jobs, will drive up labor costs for retailers.
Reports this week by online jobs platform Wonolo and employment website Indeed.com show that demand for workers, and the wages retailers will have to pay them, are on the rise.
“In recent years we’ve seen the holiday season become crazier and crazier in terms of the demand” for seasonal employees,” said Beatrice Pang, vice president of strategy and finance at Wonolo, which describes itself as an “in-demand hiring platform.” Employers, or “Requestors” post jobs and applicants (”Wonoloers”) are matched with jobs they are qualified for, and are rated on how they performed on previous temporary jobs.
This year, Pang said, “we see a very visible increase in demand,” for seasonal workers.
Competition for seasonal staffers means employers increase hourly wages offered to temporary employees by 8% during the holiday period, according to the Wonolo report.
Employers seeking workers on the Wonolo platform this holiday season can expect to pay an average of $15.19 an hour, the report said. That hourly wage will be significantly higher in high-demand parts of the country, such as Southern California, where the average is $18.59 per hour, or the New York metro area, where it is !8.41 per hour.
Pang said gig platforms like Wonolo, where job seekers looking for a side hustle can see a range of jobs and pay rates, have brought more visibility and transparency to seasonal job offers, but also increased competition.
“Employers have to compete for the workers on the platform, and the more competitive your pay is, and the better previous workers have rated their work experience, the more quickly those jobs get filled by the more experienced workers,” she said.
The report also found that employers that depend on holiday workers began boosting wages as early as August in order to attract seasonal employees.
Merchandising and customer service jobs are among the most in demand during the holiday season, according to Wonolo.
The scramble for seasonal workers has caused the largest U.S. retailers to ramp up their recruiting efforts. Target, which plans to hire more than 130,000 seasonal workers, is offering pay starting at $13 an hour, and a 10 percent employee discount to its holiday temps.
Kohl’s wants to hire 90,000 seasonal workers this year, and its began adding seasonal workers at close to half of its stores starting in July, to get a head start on the competition. It plans to hire 5,000 workers on the spot at its national hiring day event, to be held at all of its stores Oct. 5.
Kohl’s hasn’t announced a starting wage for seasonal workers, but it is beating Target’s employee discount, offering 15% off for holiday workers.
Walmart, as it has done in recent years, is saying it plans to meet its need for additional holiday workers primarily by giving existing employees additional hours.
UPS expects to hire 100,000 seasonal employees, and Amazon is likely to equal that number, based on past hiring levels.
Holiday job postings are up 13% compared to last year, according to company statistics.
The top five retailers posting holiday jobs this year are Kohl’s, Famous Footwear, Lowe’s, Party City, and Bath & Body Works, according to Indeed.com economist Andrew Flowers.
The good news for retailers as they compete for holiday helpers, according to Indeed.com, is that the number of searches on the site by job seekers looking for holiday jobs is up 11% in August, compared to August 2018. Holiday job searches on Indeed.com by would-be workers typically peak in mid-November.
There are people looking for these seasonal jobs. But retailers will find this year that if they want good holiday help they will have to pay more for it, and beat the competition.