The gloominess of the coronavirus pandemic may not dampen the holiday shopping season and that’s good news for unemployed workers.

Amidst a new wave of government-imposed restrictions over the next few weeks, consumers are not expected to allow the grinch of coronavirus to steal their holiday cheer. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) just released its annual holiday sales forecast. They expect holiday sales to increase by 3.6 percent and 5.2 percent over 2019 levels for the last two months of the year.

This is remarkable given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic that has ravished some parts of our economy, left millions of workers jobless, and forced many small businesses to shut their doors for good.

Holiday sales rose 4 percent in 2019 from 2018 beating the average increase of 3.5 percent over the past five years. 

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay explained this rosey forecast:

Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year. We expect a strong finish to the holiday season and will continue to work with municipal and state officials to keep retailers open and the economy moving forward at this critical time.

Coronavirus looms large over how retailers will adjust prompting Shay to add that “this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers.”

Shoppers may stay home, but it won’t keep them from spending. NFR expects online and other non-store sales to increase between 20 percent and 30 percent to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

A good sign for jobless workers

A strong shopping season is good news for unemployed workers. Retailers are boosting hiring in anticipation of heavy online spending. Warehouse workers and delivery drivers will continue to be needed to meet these demands. 

NRF expects retailers to hire between 475,000 and 575,000 seasonal workers about in line with the 562,000 hired last year. Amazon, for example, plans to hire an additional 100,000 seasonal workers on top of the 175,000 seasonal workers they hired earlier in the year (most of whom they kept). 

The economy added 146,000 warehouse and storage jobs from April to October which has aided in the falling unemployment rate that was down to 6.9 percent in October after skyrocketing to 15 percent in April. 

In an absurdly abnormal year, Christmas shopping will not only bring some normalcy to American homes, it will deliver needed employment opportunities for struggling workers.