Holiday hiring heats up - thanks to widespread layoffs

If you were thinking about getting a little part-time job to help pay the holiday bills, think again. Thanks (or no thanks) to the huge number of layoffs, these jobs are suddenly in high demand.

According to the Associated Press, a combination of a sudden consumer spending freeze with more applicants than normal have retailers fielding more applicants than they have seasonal jobs for.

Former professionals, now unemployed, are vying for these low-wage, no benefit gigs with the more usual applicant: high school kids or housewives. If a white-collar exec is desperate enough to take a part-time job paying $8.50-an-hour, who's the retailer going to hire? The kid with no experience who may or may not show up in the morning or the professional?

But relative merits between housewives and middle managers aside, there just aren't as many holiday-time jobs to fill this year. Consumers are tapped out and not buying. Retailers and those who serve them (call centers, delivery services) who would normally be ramping up for the holidays, aren't seeing the numbers they need to support new hiring, even temporarily.

The U.S. retail industry alone has shed nearly 300,000 jobs since January, according to Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers. That accounts for a quarter of the 1.2 million jobs lost in the U.S. so far this year. Yet retail employment only accounted for about 11% of total payroll employment, which means that the retail industry is losing a higher proportion of jobs.

As an experiment, I went to my local Home Depot and asked whether it was hiring extra workers for Christmas. The guy I spoke to said they had pretty much hired their extra-help already, and still had a large stack of applicants. Who were they hiring? Mostly out-of-work contractors, he said.
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