holiday_mallDespite a growth in consumer sentiment and an expectation that the economy will grow in 2017, seasonal hiring is down according to a study of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Many employers, including Amazon, UPS and FedEx have made announcements that they will not only hire temporarily, but also for the long term. However, the retail sector has shown limited growth or declines this season, according to the study.

“The shrinking number of jobs added during the holiday season does not necessarily mean that the retail industry is shrinking,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

But he went on to say that there are some trends that could be contributing to this potential change in holiday hiring practices:

“First, stronger hiring throughout the year and advances in retail technology may mean that stores do not have to hire as many extra workers during the busy holiday shopping season. Secondly, increased online shopping could be shifting the holiday job gains away from retailers toward warehousing, fulfillment, and transportation operations.”

But it is not for lack of consumer confidence.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment reading rose to 93.8 in November from 87.2 in October.

Additionally, the Conference Board Leading Economic Index has increased 0.3% over the months of September and October to 124.5.

“The U.S. LEI increased in October for a second consecutive month,” says Ataman Ozyildirim, director of business cycles and growth research at the Conference Board. “Although its six-month growth rate has moderated, the index still suggests that the economy will continue expanding into early 2017. The interest rate spread and average weekly hours were the main drivers of October’s improvement, helping to offset some of the weaknesses in claims for unemployment insurance and new orders.”

What this means for staffing firms is that seasonal hiring could be robust in warehousing and transportation. And, for 2017, with an expanding economy, there is the potential to see more workers reentering the labor market, with many using staffing services as a stepping stone towards permanent employment.

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