Holiday jobs available in retail and transportation
October 26, 2014 12:55 AM
Judy Morini in her Christmas Corner store at The Mall at Robinson. Ms. Morini has trouble finding reliable help for her store.
By Ann Belser / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The help wanted signs are up.
In the aftermath of the most devastating recession since the second world war, most retailers have bumped up their hiring slightly, while the package delivery companies, which had so much trouble last year with the flood of last-minute online shopping, are hiring about twice as many people as last year.
Or, as Judy Morini, owner of gift and clothing shop Morini said last week, “We need the elves!”
This year she is staffing for her seasonal Christmas Corner shop — down the hall from her regular store at The Mall at Robinson — where she sells ornaments, lighted Christmas village houses from Department 56, and stuffed animals that sing and dance.
But the elves won’t be making much, Ms. Morini admitted. She is paying them just above the minimum wage, which is what most retailers are paying seasonal clerks because there are large numbers of people available to take such jobs.
“You don’t need any qualifications,” Ms. Morini said, kidding about jobs working in her stores. “You just need to be able to know a dollar is green and has a one in the corner.” She’s set up a number system on items to make it as simple as possible to figure out where they are stored in the Christmas store.
So far she has staffed six of the 10 part-time jobs available at $8 an hour. Even though the pay is low and the hours are tough, Ms. Morini expects to be able to get the workers she needs.
Help wanted signs can be seen on doors throughout the Mall at Robinson. At most stores, applicants are expected to apply online, which makes it a little harder for those without computer access. A few places, such as Perfumania and Ms. Morini’s store, accept paper applications.
Nationally, big chains are calling for huge numbers of employees. Macy’s announced it would add 86,000 seasonal workers; Kohl’s plans to hire 67,000 associates; Toys R Us is adding 45,000 temporary workers; and Wal-Mart is adding 60,000.
Shippers also are adding workers to handle the flood of gifts ordered online.
FedEx, including its Moon-based FedEx Ground unit, is hiring 50,000 people across all of its divisions to help move the 290 million shipments it expects to enter its system between Black Friday and Christmas. UPS has announced plans to hire 95,000.
Last year, between September and December, retailers nationwide added 786,200 workers to their payrolls and while transportation companies added 163,000.
During that same period of time, the number of unemployed fell by 901,000, rebounding by 871,000 people in January. Those figures are not seasonally adjusted to show the impact of seasonal trends.
The latest unemployment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that, with seasonal adjustment, there were 9.3 million people unemployed in September, 2.9 million of them out of work longer than six months.
Another 6.3 million people have given up looking for work but still want a job. Adding them to the overall labor force would produce a national unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, rather than the 5.9 percent level officially announced for September.
Last month, another 7.1 million people were working at part-time jobs for economic reasons.
In the end, the boost in holiday hiring for low-paying part-time jobs does not impact the overall unemployment numbers.
Bruce Fallick, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said when it comes to the long-term unemployed, the only factor that is really going to help them is the improvement of the overall health of the economy.
Labor force participation — the measure of how many people in the population are working or looking for work — fell in September to its lowest level in since 1977.
In August, Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, talked about the labor force participation rate during a speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo. While some of the decline is due to retirement of the baby boomers, an increase in Social Security disability claims and in-school enrollment, she said a fourth factor — worker discouragement — is a sign of a weakened labor market.
That weak market is why the retailers can keep pay low and still find employees.
It is also why, in the great game of chance that is looking for a job, so many people have not pulled a lucky card, Mr. Fallick said.
He said while economists cite retirements as one of the reasons for declining labor force participation, many people who are now classified as retired would not be if they had a good job. For instance, a baby boomer in his or her 60s who can’t find work might start to consider early retirement options.
The Mall at Robinson has job listings at 32 of its nearly 150 retailers. More than two-thirds of the positions are part-time and many are seasonal. Most pay about $8 an hour.
A report released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed both hourly and weekly earnings fell from August to September. While wages stayed flat, inflation eroded the buying power of the money being paid, so in real terms weekly wages fell 0.4 percent for the month.
Ann Belser: email@example.com or 412-263-1699.
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