It's the season for holiday hiring.
The retail industry is expected to add 720,000 to 780,000 seasonal workers in the coming months — providing temporary relief to unemployed workers or extra cash for those in need of a second job.
Online retail giant Amazon.com said it is hiring 70,000 full-time seasonal workers, an increase of 40 percent over last year's 50,000 workers.
Major national retailers are also hiring. Walmart Stores is adding 55,000 seasonal workers, Target Corp. said it plans to add 70,000 workers and Toys R Us will hire 45,000.
Walmart and Amazon are changing their tactics a bit this year by placing many seasonal hires in warehouses and distribution centers, according to the National Retail Federation. That may be because of online sales, a category expected to grow by 13 to 15 percent.
Overall holiday hiring is expected to be relatively flat because of cautious consumer spending and uncertainty about the economic environment. Employer consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates that overall seasonal hiring will not change significantly from last year's total, when hiring rose 14 percent to 751,800 positions between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 — a 12 year high.
Seasonal work has the potential to become permanent and gives current employees more opportunity. Amazon said it plans to convert thousands of temporary jobs into full-time roles after the holidays, and Walmart is elevating 35,000 temporary workers to part-time and 35,000 part-time to full-time.
Where the jobs are
In Oklahoma, where unemployment remains low, job openings outpace those looking, said Bob Funk, chief executive of Oklahoma City-based staffing company Express Employment Professionals.
“We're having a challenge finding the right kind of people. Not only for the holiday season, but just in general,” Funk said. Many of the firms' available positions are in customer service, distribution, manufacturing and administrative.
Six hundred requests for workers went unfilled in Oklahoma last week because of a lack of qualified applicants, he said.
But Express works with companies all over the country. Last week, Funk said a major retailer requested 350 temporary workers, and a big Internet company is requesting 800 to 1,200 to fill holiday positions.
He said job applicants need just three things: integrity, good work ethic and the ability to pass a drug test.
At the Williams-Sonoma call center in Oklahoma City, 300 seasonal workers have been hired and the company is searching 150 to 200 more, said Carolyn Pendley, senior human relations generalist. Positions include customer service and sales.
“We've been hiring since June,” Pendley said. “And we're still at it.”
The Associated Press
Tips for finding a holiday job
• Start now. If businesses already are thinking about the holidays, so should you. Don't wait until November.
• Think beyond the big names. Make a list of places to apply, and don't just focus on the big retailers. Local retailers and boutiques also increase their staff for the holidays. Shipping companies, restaurants, customer service centers, flower shops, caterers and event centers usually hire additional workers, too.
• Work with a staffing company. Filling out a single application can put you in the running for many different positions with a variety of businesses.