October 8, 2011 in Business

Season’s job search might bring cheer

Temp jobs are expected to rise but not all employers are hiring
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Mike Davis, store stocker, straightens merchandise along the holiday aisle at the Sprague Avenue Costco during the noon hour Friday.
(Full-size photo)

If you’re thinking of landing a part-time retail job this fall, Nancy Nelson has some advice.

Start looking “now, now, now,” said Nelson, president of Spokane-area staffing firm Humanix.

Despite reports that national retailers predict a 2.8 percent increase in holiday sales this year, most area businesses will hire carefully over the next several weeks.

Some, such as J.C. Penney at Spokane Valley Mall, have already finished hiring for the holiday rush. Store manager Francine Mudd said her store hired about 10 workers as clerks, dock workers and support staff for the December rush.

Retailers are hiring fewer part-time seasonal workers than before the recession, said Doug Tweedy, regional labor economist for Spokane County. For most of the past decade, Spokane County retailers hired between 1,700 and 2,000 seasonal workers.

But in 2009 and 2010, as the economy sagged, retailers cut that number to around 800 seasonal jobs, Tweedy said.

Spokane retailers and wholesalers will hire roughly 1,200 seasonal workers here this holiday season, predicts Washington’s Employment Security Department. Last year they added about 929 seasonal jobs.

Even though sales are likely to increase this year, most retailers are asking permanent and seasonal workers to clock longer hours, Tweedy said. That’s one factor in the slowdown in seasonal hiring, he added.

That’s exactly the hiring practice at Spokane’s Costco stores, said Fred Schoenhard, manager of the East Sprague store.

“If we do hire seasonal workers, it will be only a few,” he said. Schoenhard generally handles the holiday season now by asking existing workers to add hours. “Very few don’t want the extra money,” he said.

Hiring will happen, however. Kohl’s, Target, J.C. Penney and Macy’s all announced they will add more part-time workers than last year.

Toys “R” Us and Best Buy, on the other hand, will hire fewer workers than in 2010.

Sandpoint apparel retailer Coldwater Creek will add about the same as last year – 50 to 60 sales associates at its Coeur d’Alene customer contact center, said spokeswoman Bobbi Earle.

Spokane retail seasonal jobs pay $12 an hour on average, Tweedy said.

The challenge is to become a solid candidate, added Nelson, who advises applicants to get their names in front of the usual retail companies as well as FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service.

She also said hospitality and event-hosting companies, such as the Lincoln Center, may add workers to handle holiday events.

“It is best to apply for positions you are qualified for or inquire regarding their ability to train people” if you think that’s an option, she said.

Dianne LaValley, director of the Spokane office of staffing firm AccountTemps, said applicants help their chances by emphasizing skills they have that translate into traits the hiring company may need, such as customer service.

“Retailers will be getting many skilled applicants. To stand out, you have to assure them you’ll ready to do whatever role they need and that you’re a stable worker,” she added.


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