Friday, December 19, 2014

Santa's Helpers

Click graph to enlarge
Carrie Mayne, Chief Economist

The holiday season is upon us and while many people are focused on holiday shopping, economists are analyzing how that shopping affects the economy. The money flies out of consumers’ wallets straight into cash registers, and retailers hire workers to support that temporary increase in customers. The magnitude of the holiday retail activity can be a powerful indicator of how confident consumers feel about the overall economy.

Since 2000, retailers in Utah have expanded their workforce an average of 5.1 percent over the holiday seasons (October to December). The weakest year was 2008 at the height of the recession when only 3,584 retail jobs were added. In 2006, the strongest year for seasonal hiring, 8,997 jobs were added. In that year, overall job growth was at 4.8 percent and the unemployment rate was 2.9 percent. It had been a good year economically speaking and consumers had the disposable income to spend. 

Forecasts for this year put the seasonal retail employment growth just slightly below last year. Currently the state is experiencing stronger job growth and a lower unemployment rate than that of 2013, and early employment estimates put the seasonal retail hiring at roughly four-tenths of a percentage point below last year. Wage growth has been somewhat weak this year, which put some drag on the holiday economy.

Or perhaps the naughty list is just a little longer this year.

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