Seasonal hiring off to a cautious start for retail, transportation companies in St. Louis region

ST. LOUIS – Every year as the leaves turn and the first holiday decorations appear on store shelves and retailers begin promoting their pre-Black Friday sales, companies start hiring seasonal workers.

Like landscaping companies in the spring and outdoor recreation businesses in the summer, in the fall retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are bringing in a wave of new hires to help manage the holiday rush — as well as companies that stock up. carry

But this year, due to uncertainty about holiday sales, some retail employers are reluctant to ramp up hiring as much as usual. Employment in shipping and warehousing “hasn’t really grown the way it has over the last two years,” said Charles Gascon, chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Part of that may be because carriers have retained more workers and haven’t had as many layoffs in the past few years, he said.

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“Employment levels, overall, are higher, so there may not be a need to hire at the same levels as before,” Gascon said.

And on Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. added 263,000 jobs in November, with the unemployment rate at just 3.7%. So it may be difficult to find workers because other sectors of the economy are hiring and the labor market is tight.

Dan Shafer, executive vice president of the Midwest Truckers Association, said “everything has gone downhill” for the trucking industry this year because of customer concerns about supply chain issues.

“So you’re not seeing an increase in terms of employment,” Schaeffer said. It’s a little more balanced throughout the year instead of peaks and valleys.

Schaefer said the industry has not seen as much seasonal turnover over the past two years as it has had to respond to depressed demand in the construction industry and shift critical resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In the past, logistics companies have used Labor Day as a barometer to help predict the number of trucks, employees and warehouse space needed for the upcoming holiday season, he said. In the past few years, the measure has “fallen by the wayside,” Schaeffer said.

Economists also said the trends may reflect larger changes in industries.

Glenn MacDonald, Distinguished Professor of Economics and Strategy at the John M. Washington University.

Now, he said, “we’re just constantly moving things around. … I can hardly drive a minute without seeing that Amazon smile.”

The 2022 holiday season is full of uncertainty for businesses. Heading into the season, many retailers were concerned that inflation would dampen holiday sales. As consumers spend more on gas and groceries, they may be less willing to buy clothes and gifts.

In September, Walmart said it planned to hire 40,000 seasonal and full-time workers, up from 150,000 a year earlier, according to Reuters. In November, the National Retail Federation forecast that retailers would hire between 450,000 and 600,000 seasonal workers, down from 670,000 last year.

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“A lot of retailers were a little stingy with their hiring,” said Jerome Katz, a professor of entrepreneurship at St. Louis University’s Chaifetz School of Business.

But over the Thanksgiving shopping weekend, customers showed up in force. According to data from Adobe Analytics, consumers spent $11.3 billion on Cyber ​​Monday, an all-time high and a 5.8 percent increase over last year.

“It turned out that people showed up and were shopping, you know, making up for lost time,” Katz said. “I think (retailers) were happy to be proven wrong.”

Lured by the big sales, the St. Louis-area Black Friday crowd is strong and steady

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