Skip to main content

What’s Going on With Holiday Hiring?

Retailers staffing up for the holidays are advertising for tens of thousands of roles amid continued labor shortages. But some seem to be pulling back on hiring due to daunting macro headwinds.

Macy’s, Inc. announced plans to recruit 41,000 full- and part-time seasonal positions across its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores, warehouses, fulfillment centers and call centers. It said the number of seasonal openings is consistent with previous years, and aims to retain some holiday hires as permanent employees.

“With our focus on making meaningful investments in our colleagues, we are proud to provide an unmatched culture and fulfilling career opportunities that put our colleagues and Macy’s, Inc. in a strong position for the holiday season,” Danielle Kirgan, Macy’s, Inc. chief transformation and human resources officer, said Monday. “Whether you are looking to earn extra money for the holidays or start a career in retail, we are excited to offer more than 41,000 opportunities to join our amazing team and shape the future of retail.”

The company offered more than 10,300 seasonal workers permanent positions following the 2021 holiday season, she said. Macy’s has focused on hiring fewer employees at higher levels of experience and offering more competitive pay, which reduced turnover by 40 percent last year. About one-third of Macy’s current store leadership began their careers with the retailer during the holiday season, Kirgan said. Those in professional roles generally average 11 years with the company, versus six years average for hourly workers.

Related Stories

The retailer’s permanent supply chain hires average more than $17 an hour in base pay, and an average total pay of about $20 an hour. Macy’s said it is offering opportunities to work flexible schedules. Most job offers are made within two business days.

Meanwhile, Kohl’s is also preparing for the holiday season with seasonal store and supply chain roles. It hired roughly 90,000 seasonal workers last year, but didn’t offer specifics about this year’s plans.

It staged in-store hiring events during September and plans additional events from Oct. 13-15 at all 1,100 stores. Kohl’s said it is recruiting for a variety of store, distribution center, e-commerce fulfillment center and 300 in-store “omni-power” center roles. The omni-power centers replenish store inventory during peak periods and leverage technology to rapidly fulfill online orders.

On Monday, the retailer had listed 4,969 job listings including store repair technicians and supply chain managers—just a fraction of the roles offered in years past. The majority of jobs (3,191) were listed as part-time, versus 1,755 full-time.

Meanwhile, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it plans to hire 9,000 seasonal workers—1,000 fewer than 2021. The athletic apparel and gear retailer kicked off its recruiting efforts this week for roles also including Public Lands, Field & Stream and Going, Going, Gone! stores.   

Dick’s hosted its fifth annual National Signing Day on Monday to kick off the hiring season. It said it now offers early access to wages through DailyPay as a hiring incentive, and will close its stores and distribution centers on Thanksgiving.

Walmart said last week it plans to hire 40,000 holiday workers—a 70 percent drop from last year. Target‘s 100,000 recruitment effort is on par with last year.

Not enough retail workers

Whether or not retailers are feeling bullish on holiday hiring, they’re likely running into trouble finding workers, according September U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) data. There are 11.2 million open jobs in the U.S. as of this month, with 62.4 percent of the U.S. workforce currently employed. Meanwhile, there are only 6 million unengaged workers in the U.S., so even if each one found a job, there would still be 5.2 million roles open.

Vocations like wholesale and retail trade, along with durable goods manufacturing, have been disproportionately impacted by worker shortages. These sectors are seeing more unfilled job openings than unemployed workers with experience in their respective industry, USCC director of global employment policy and special initiatives Stephanie Ferguson wrote in a September report. “Even if every unemployed person with experience in the durable goods manufacturing industry were employed, the industry would only fill 65 percent of the vacant jobs,” she said.

These sectors, which typically list a large number of entry level, lower-paying jobs, have a higher unemployment rate than the national average. “During the pandemic reshuffling, jobs that require in-person attendance and traditionally have lower wages, have had a more difficult time retaining workers,” Ferguson wrote, noting that the leisure and hospitality industry has maintained the highest quit rate since July 2021 averaging 5.4 percent. “The quit rate for the retail trade industry isn’t far behind, with rates hovering close to 4 percent over the summer,” she added.

Meanwhile, the transportation, warehousing and utilities sector had listed 520,000 open jobs as of USCC’s most recent assessment in June, amounting to 6.8 percent of jobs in those industries unfilled. Not all retailers are scrambling for workers—Nordstrom, for one, is laying off 222 warehouse workers. Ongoing logistics labor negotiations have also shaken up the supply chain sector.

Many frontline retail workers want to quit for good, according to McKinsey & Co. “No other U.S. industry is more affected by the ‘Great Attrition’ than retail, simply because it employs more people than any other sector in the U.S. economy,” analysts wrote in an August report. Retail employees, who alongside those in hospitality make up 20 percent of U.S. workforce, have long seen yearly turnover rates of about 60 percent, McKinsey research showed. Inflation and pandemic disruption are driving hiring and retention challenges.

A survey of more than 1,000 retail workers revealed that about half are considering leaving their jobs in the next few months, and 63 percent of those in management roles also want to exit in the near future. Nearly half of those surveyed said they weren’t just planning to leave their posts, but the retail sector entirely. In fact, U.S. frontline retail employees were found to be 1.3 times more likely to consider resigning than workers across the broader nationwide economy.

Notably, retail workers were the only respondents who ranked a “lack of workplace flexibility” as their top reason for wanting to move on. Asked to rank the top three considerations, one-third (34 percent) of retail employees said that unpredictable schedules, inflexible stop and start times, and lack of control over how work gets done contributed to their desire to quit their store jobs. “While office workers have seen an increase in flexible work, flexibility remains the most pressing issue for frontline retail employees” across big box stores, department stores, boutiques, grocery and general merchandise retailers, analysts wrote. “In pursuit of more flexibility, many have left traditional frontline jobs to take on gig work.”

Thirty-two percent pointed to limited career growth and upskilling opportunities, while 29 percent cited the disruption of work-life balance and the inability to spend time on personally meaningful pursuits outside of work. An equal number of respondents said they felt underpaid or that benefits were subpar, while 27 percent said they felt that the work they were doing lacked meaning or purpose.