Businesses are Hiring Fewer Holiday Workers—But Completing Each Hire Faster 

Businesses hiring for the holidays this year are in a tight spot. On the one hand, they’re inclined to proceed cautiously and conservatively, given rising fears of a possible downturn. They don’t want to overhire and get caught flatfooted if consumer demand sags. 

On the other hand, they’re under pressure to move boldly and swiftly because winning the war for talent in this unusually tight job seekers’ market requires it. If consumer demand remains strong and businesses are not able to meet it, they will be leaving money on the table and losing customers to competitors, not just this holiday season but for the long haul. 

The result is an unusual holiday hiring season in which businesses are trying to thread the needle—for example, by trimming bonuses to conserve cash, but speeding up the hiring process to close more candidates. Here are three ways in which it stands out. 

  1. The Usual Seasonal Trends are Absent

Retail job postings and employment usually surge in September and October, but this year, they have remained flat. The usual seasonal hump is notably absent. Of course, retail employment was higher in the first quarter of this year than in any year prior, so retailers have less of a staffing gap to close before the holiday peak season. And staffing levels were higher in August of this year than in any August other than that of 2021. But the pattern in job postings suggests that the holiday season job surge may be relatively small this year. 

  1. Seasonal Roles Have Shifted from Store to Road and Warehouse

Before the pandemic, the retail sector typically created about 450,000 holiday season jobs, and the warehousing and delivery industries created a combined 350,000. Since the pandemic, the balance has shifted in favor of e-commerce-related roles. So far this month, the top seasonal job titles have been dominated by trucking and warehousing roles. 

  1. Employers are Competing on Speed, Rather than on Signing Bonuses

In 2020 and 2021, employers attracted holiday workers by sweetening their offers by providing such perks as signing bonuses, tuition assistance, and schedule flexibility. Employers are still using signing bonuses to attract seasonal workers to a far greater extent than before the pandemic. For example, Amazon is offering holiday hires signing bonuses of between $1,000 to $3,000. But there has been a notable decline over the past two years, and such cash bonuses are now becoming harder to find. 

The main way in which companies are competing for talent now is by speeding up their hiring processes. That involves stripping out irrelevant requirements, shrinking the number and length of interviews, and making on-the-spot offers. 

For example, Bass Pro Shops is making on-the-spot offers to candidates who interview at their hiring events. The Body Shop, which adopted open hiring in 2019, has dispensed with background checks, drug tests, education requirements, and experience requirements. Southwest Airlines is making on-the-spot contingent job offers and no longer requiring vaccinations for employees. UPS is making offers to candidates within 25 minutes of receiving their applications, and forgoing interviews altogether for 80% of roles. 

In other words, employers hiring for the holidays this year may be slower than usual to post seasonal jobs and reticent to offer bonuses and perks, but when they do decide to hire, they’re doing so lightning-fast, hoping to win on speed. 

 For those employers that are looking to quickly hire seasonal employees, four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate within the first day. You can quickly and easily post your seasonal jobs on ZipRecruiter today ahead of the rush.

Written by

Julia Pollak is Chief Economist at ZipRecruiter. She leads ZipRecruiter's economic research team, which provides insights and analysis on current labor market trends and the future of work.

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