Hiring may not be as robust this holiday season if retailers look back at last year, when the industry added the lowest number of jobs since 2009.

Add in store closings since last Christmas and the higher tariffs retailers are paying, and temporary holiday jobs — while still plentiful — may be a little harder to find this year.

And then there are the consumers who are spending about 10% of their disposable incomes on nonmortgage debt, said David Berliner, leader of BDO’s restructuring and turnaround services. Consumer borrowing surged in July with borrowing up by $23.3 billion after rising $13.8 billion in June.

“The consumer is borrowing at a rapid pace. That’s great as long as the economy stays strong,” Berliner said. “But consumers can pull back swiftly and hurt retailers on the bubble that need a good holiday.”

Retailers added 625,600 jobs in the last three months of 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported by job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That was the lowest level since retailers added 495,800 during the Great Recession in 2009.

Online shopping has shifted more of seasonal retail jobs to transportation delivery and warehouse fulfillment centers, said Andrew Challenger, vice president of the Chicago-based firm. The transportation and warehouse category added 259,000 jobs in the last three months of 2018. That was down 2% from the prior year, but that seasonal gain has been well over 200,000 every year since 2013 as online gained market share.


The National Retail Federation issued an optimistic forecast last week, saying holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%. That compares with a disappointing 2.1% increase in the combined November and December period last year and a five-year average of 3.7%.

Among the largest national employers is Target, which plans to hire 125,000 this holiday season at its 1,800 stores. It’s also hiring 8,000 temporary workers at its 39 distribution and fulfillment centers.

If you are interested in finding temporary work, know that stores say it’s better to apply online first.

See temporary job postings advertised in The Seattle Times here.