WILKES-BARRE – For Heidi Dykins a seasonal job at Boscov's last winter was a chance to get her foot in the door and show management what she could bring to the team.
This year as 58 new seasonal hires work at the downtown retailer, Dykins, 20, of Wilkes-Barre, is among the store's 110 year-round employees and credits her temporary seasonal job with giving her the chance to find full-time work in a tough economy. With projections for increased sales this holiday season, more temporary workers are being brought on, raising the possibility more people can follow Dykins' lead and turn their short-turn job into a long-term career.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Free Shipping Day and the rest of the holiday sales holidays mean big business for many companies. They also mean big hiring numbers.
Many companies said they're hiring more seasonal workers this year than last as sales projections show a stronger shopping season.
The retail industry creates hundreds of thousands of jobs every holiday season by adding new staff in stores, distribution centers, and customer service departments across the country, said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay. New jobs help people support their families, and for some, seasonal employment can turn into a career opportunity once the holidays have passed.
At the Best Buy store in Wilkes-Barre Township, general manager Chuck Sullick said he hired 40 seasonal workers this year, more than twice as many as last holiday season.
We're expecting a better season than last year, Sullick said.
So too is Spencer Chesman, owner and CEO of West Pittston-based specialty foods company iGourmet.com. He said the company is anticipating sales will be up 20 percent over last year and with that in mind, the company hired close to 400 seasonal workers to prepare orders this holiday season, an increase from about 300 it hired last year.
Not all businesses hire in the hundreds or even the dozens.
For some small businesses, a handful of new hires is all that's needed.
Matt Camella, store manager of Schuylkill Valley Sports, said the team apparel shop hired three extra employees this season and noted it was the first time it has hired seasonal help in its three years at the Wyoming Valley Mall. While that's partly because the store is understaffed right now, Camella said he also is expecting holiday sales to improve this year over last. Forecasts indicate it's supposed to be better, and we think it will be, Camella said.
At Michael Mootz Candies in Hanover Township, owner Debi Mootz said the business itself is seasonal and at Easter and Christmas a few extra workers are brought in for a month or two. Four part-time workers started this month, which is twice as many as usual, but Mootz said with expanded production capacity thanks to a move to larger building the help was needed.
Across the country and in this region, companies have added workers to their payrolls. Target is the top retailer in terms of temporary hirings with 90,000 nationally, according to the global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Macy's was next on the list with 80,000, while Walmart, Kohl's, UPS and Amazon.com were each expected to hire 50,000 or more.
The National Retail Federation expects stores and online merchandisers to hire between 585,000 and 625,000 temporary workers nationwide this fall/winter shopping season, which is in line with the 607,500 seasonal workers hired last year.
The hiring is a benefit to businesses, shoppers and those who get a job.
With the national unemployment rate at 7.9 percent, the state rate at 8.1 and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro region's rate at 9.5, any job, even a temporary one, is a help.
Dykins, a 2010 graduate of West Side Career and Technology Center in Pringle, said if people are willing to find this kind of work and work hard at it, potential exists to make a permanent paycheck.
Christine Jensen, director of the CareerLink center in Wilkes-Barre, agrees. The role of seasonal hiring is an important one. It provides extra income to individuals looking for part-time work to supplement their incomes to be used for holiday shopping which in turn stimulates the economy. It also gives those looking for full-time work the opportunity to get their foot in the door with a company in the instance there is a full-time or non-seasonal position available after the holiday season ends, she said.
That's a notion some local retail managers echoed, including Ruthanne Piccola, manager of Kay Jewelers at the Wyoming Valley Mall, who hired seven seasonal workers this year and said some could turn into longer stays.
Dave Clark, vice president of global customer fulfillment for Amazon.com, said Temporary associates play a critical role in meeting increased customer demand during the holiday season, and we expect thousands of temporary associates will stay on in full-time positions.
Amazon has a local facility in Hazle Township and is among a handful of companies that asked CareerLink to assist in holiday job recruitment services.
We have seen an increase in holiday/seasonal jobs available locally, said Jensen. We have been working with numerous companies who are hiring for seasonal positions including Old Navy, Integrity Staffing, who recruits for Amazon, and TJ Maxx. Clothing stores in particular have seen an increase in hiring over last year.