Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tis the Season for Retail Hiring

Lecia Langston, Senior Economist

Holiday-season spending is typically associated with an increase in retail trade hiring— No surprises here. But just how big is the increase? And, does it evaporate once the holiday season is over? Here are a few facts about seasonal retail trade hiring since 2001.

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  • In “normal” expansionary years, Utah’s seasonal retail trade (September to December) employment increases by 6,000 to 9,000 jobs.
  •  In 2012, Utah added roughly 7,800 seasonal positions.
  • The largest seasonal increase occurred in the boom year of 2006.
  • Even during the recession, holiday hiring occurred. However, in 2008, retail trade employment increased by only 3,600 positions.
  •  Keep in mind that during expansions, a portion of the increased September-to-December hiring is cyclical rather than seasonal.
  • In non-recessionary years, retail trade employment typically increases between September and December by between 5 and 6 percent. In 2008, seasonal hiring translated into a 2.4 percent gain.
  • Retail trade employment shows a very seasonal pattern, always peaking in December and almost always hitting its low point in February.
  •  Seasonal hiring appears most profound in clothing/accessories stores, sporting goods/hobby/book/music stores and at general merchandise stores (such as Target or Dillards). These retail divisions all showed employment increases of at least 11 percent between September and December 2012.
  • Gasoline stations and building material/garden stores show declining employment during the holiday season.
  •  Sales at retail businesses mirror the upswing in hiring during the fourth quarter. In the post-recession period, retail sales typically increased by between 6.0 and 7.5 percent between the third and fourth quarters.
  • Bill McBride at the Calculated Risk blog has found a correlation (R-square of 0.72) between national retail hiring in October and retail sales (excluding autos, restaurants and gasoline). Because of coding changes in Utah’s gross taxable sales data, there’s insufficient data to do a similar analysis for Utah.
  • The Current Employment Statistics survey indicates that Utah retail trade hiring increased by roughly 1,600 positions between September and October. If this figure holds true when the final data are available, this gain represents the largest October retail trade employment increase of the past ten years. 

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