You know the economy is doing well when stores like Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s struggle to find workers ahead of the busiest shopping season of the year.
A tight labor market bodes well for retail workers who enjoy bigger paychecks and are now gaining benefits like paid time off, that have traditionally been only available to higher-paid workers and professionals.
This holiday season may be one of the best for workers in retail in over a decade. There are consistently now more open positions than workers to fill them.
In July, there were 757,000 retail job openings across the country — 100,000 more jobs than the same time a year ago. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of openings surpassed the number of hires from March through June for the first time in a decade.
With a shortage of workers, retailers are getting creative to attract talent.
Check out 3 new perks for retail workers:
Higher wages. Target will pay workers hired after Sept. 16 $12 an hour ($1 extra).
Bonuses. Macy’s new incentive plan pays out a quarterly bonus to full- and part-time staff when sales and online fulfillment goals are met.
Paid time off. J.C. Penney’s will give part-time hourly workers one week of paid time off a year.
This sounds similar to the surprising bonuses and employee benefits that last year’s tax cuts spawned.
The retail industry is strong against now because consumer confidence is high. Americans have jobs again, unemployment is historically low for many groups, wages are rising (even if slowly), and workers keep more of their earnings thanks to tax cuts.
As a placement firm executive, Andrew Challenger, explains:
“There’s going to be a war for retail talent. We might be getting to a point where there is a limit to how much companies can grow because it’s hard to get labor.”
Contrast this with holiday season 2009.
Retail employment grew by half of what it did today (just 384,000 from October through December) – the lowest holiday hiring figure since 1989. Employed workers like 37-year-old Jenny Brown-Shern and her husband who applied for retail jobs for extra cash to buy Christmas presents, were competing with millions of unemployed Americans for fewer jobs:
"We were dependent on that overtime. He's looking into security in the evenings, maybe at a bar or bank. I've just started to fill out applications for retail. Neither of us have heard back about anything. It'll be a sad Christmas for my kids, I guess."
This Christmas, Americans households will have a lot to celebrate.