Holiday shoppingThough hiring remains anemic in many U.S. industries, one area is showing promise: retail. Two consecutive months of sales gains among the nation's retailers may provide just enough confidence to trigger increased seasonal hiring this year, according to employment-trends research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Challenger cautions, however, that number of retail workers to be added during the next three months will still likely fall short of prerecession levels. In its annual holiday hiring forecast, Challenger says high unemployment, the nation's fragile economy and the possibility of further weakening are likely to keep retailers' hiring plans more subdued than they would be otherwise.

"This year we expect to see further gains in seasonal hiring, but it probably will not achieve the levels we saw in 2006 or 2007 when retailers' holiday payrolls grew by 746,800 and 720,800, respectively," Challenger CEO John Challenger says. "There is still a lot of doubt about the sustainability of this economy."

Bouncing Back Since 2008's Low

Last year, retail payrolls grew by 501,400 workers in October, November and December, a 30% increase from 2008, when holiday hiring fell to a 22-year low of 384,300, according to nonseasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the wake of the recession, some 15 million Americans remain unemployed, and millions have lost their homes to foreclosure or are struggling to hold onto them. That doesn't bode well for heavy holiday spending, Challenger says.

Challenger does see some reason for optimism. Job-cut announcements by retailers plummeted 65% to 30,805 during the first eight months of the year, compared to the same period in 2009. Also, while retail payrolls are statistically unchanged from where they were a year ago, a recent hiring surge resulted in a net gain of 329,400 new workers since February.

Also adding to the good news are increases in retail sales in July and August. After factoring out sales of cars and trucks, purchases rose 0.6%, with clothiers reporting an overall 1.2% increase.

"The stronger sales figures heading into the holidays could boost seasonal hiring above last year's activity. However, like a year ago, the hiring surge may come in November and December, as retailers wait to see how holidays sales are going before adding extra workers," Challenger says.

10,000 Openings at Toys R Us

Though November and December may seem way off, Challengers advises eager job seekers to start their searches now. Even if employers aren't yet hiring, they may begin screening candidates much sooner.

Some employers are already starting. Toy retailer Toys R Us said last week that it plans to open 600 temporary "holiday express" stores in shopping centers across the country and hire 10,000 workers. "With that much hiring planned," Challenger says, "it is doubtful that they will delay the process too long."

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MERRY CHRISTMAS! if you are offended go back to wherever you came from.

September 21 2010 at 3:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to thomasva6's comment

I will not buy anything from a retailer whose store does'nt say Merry Christmas.

September 21 2010 at 9:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have no desire to spit in the face of a possible job for someone and a dollar is better than nothing; at least it puts money in the pocket and food on a bare table. If retail does provide a clutch of seasonal minimum wage jobs the "experts" will tell us that unemployment is much reduced! They will ignore the fact that these jobs will be seasonal; as soon as the holiday ends, thousands of unfortunate people will be out of work again and back to seeking elusive jobs. That will not prevent the "experts" from distorting employment data to the benefit of some political clap trap. "Experts" seldom seem to be in touch with reality.

September 21 2010 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The retailers sure have high expectations. Hopefully, Americans will be spending cash, instead of going into debt with their "little plastic cards", and filling up the dumpsters and landfills with their hard-earned money.

September 21 2010 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If that dream act passes today, all these minimum wage jobs will go to all those ILLEGALS that will automatically become citizens AND THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS that want to work!!! Call your senator today and tell them to vote NO to the dream act!!!

September 21 2010 at 11:16 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Obama on CNBC. I guess the best way to describe Barry would be a deer in headlights lost without his teleprompter.

September 21 2010 at 9:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

hopeful outlook ? yea right . so , a few thousand people being hired for four weeks at minimum wage of course is hopeful ? this not only is an outrage , it's embarrassing ! our government and the news media truely believe the america people are stupid .and , perhaps their right . look at who all the stupid people voted into office .

September 21 2010 at 8:47 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bro0klyn59's comment

its a trap for people on unemployment they get a short term job they lose benefits they worked for thanks to obammmmma

September 22 2010 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

wow some good minimum wage jobs coming our way...could it be? now we all really know the recession must be coming to an end. Best of luck to all the retailers out there because they are gonna have to give us some great sales to get me in the store.....I would like to see some $100 flat screen tv's and $5 cashmere

September 21 2010 at 8:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Since both political parties created this mess, Its not about a political party but how long you have ben in office. If you are a career politician your gone. You left and right are to busy fighting each other by the time it said and done they all will be gone. While they blame each other We the People blame both.We'll let them take each other out and clean up with people who are not bought by wallstreet, special interest and lobbyist. When they refuse to listen, they have no clue whats going on. Unless pennies start felling from the sky, there will be no Christmas spending. The days of spending are gone people, the sooner you accept it the better off you will be.

September 21 2010 at 7:45 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to sjoberdix's comment

are you talking about people like Palin ?

September 21 2010 at 8:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

No like, Carl Paladino. I don't care what the media says. Just drive thru the state of NY and count the number of signs on the lawns. If you can count that high.

September 21 2010 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

The seemingly eminent defeat of the Demoncrats is improving peoples outlook. What happens if it doesn't happen?

September 21 2010 at 7:01 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Robert & Lisa's comment

I'll breathe a sigh of relief. The GOP is ruining America.

September 21 2010 at 11:26 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply