Holiday Hiring Slump: A Sign of Changing Job Market Dynamics

Rodney HessBy Rodney Hess
November 15th, 2023 • 2 Minutes

The holiday hiring landscape is currently experiencing a notable shift, suggesting a broader change in the job market. As we enter this holiday season, the demand for seasonal staff, which used to be a key focus for businesses, has noticeably decreased. This trend is evident in the National Retail Federation’s estimate of a reduction of up to 40% in seasonal hires compared to the peak in 2021.

This isn’t just about numbers; it reflects a labor market that is gradually cooling down. Major companies like Macy’s, Target, and United Parcel Service, known for boosting their staff for the holiday rush, are now adopting a more cautious approach. They are either keeping their seasonal workforce steady or making slight adjustments.

There are two main factors behind this slowdown in holiday hiring, according to the Wall Street Journal. First, economic forecasts suggest a decrease in consumer spending towards the end of the year, moving away from the high spending seen in the summer. The National Retail Federation expects a more modest increase in holiday spending of 3-4%, which is less than the growth seen in previous years.

Second, the staffing approach of retailers and logistics companies has evolved post-pandemic. Having overcome initial staffing challenges, these businesses are now more focused on maximizing their current workforce, with part-time employees often covering the extra holiday workload.

This decrease in holiday hiring is part of a larger shift in the labor market. The job growth in October was significantly less than in previous months, and there has been a slight increase in the unemployment rate since its low in April. This indicates a slowdown from the intense hiring activity seen in past holiday seasons.

Retailers, who previously struggled to fill numerous seasonal positions in a competitive job market, are now facing a different situation. The pandemic, which initially led to a loss of over two million retail jobs, has resulted in a more stable employment landscape.

Similarly, the logistics and warehouse sector, another key employer during the holidays, is slowing down its hiring. After a surge in hiring due to the rise in e-commerce, these industries are now taking a more measured approach.

“The number one signal I get from it is uncertainty,” Andy Challenger, SVP, Head of Sales and Media of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said to WSJ. “Employers do not have a good sense of what their hiring needs are going to be over the next few months.”  

In this uncertain environment, employers are being more careful with their hiring plans. This cautiousness is partly driven by technological advancements, such as the growing use of self-checkout systems in retail, which reduce the need for as many workers.

For companies like, which previously struggled to fill all their positions, finding workers has become easier this year. This change illustrates the current state of holiday hiring: a period of adjustment and careful planning.

As we celebrate the holiday season, the job market is showing signs of a shift. The reduction in holiday hiring is an important indicator, pointing to changes in the dynamics of employment and consumer behavior.

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