Santa is feeling generous about retail holiday jobs this season, but slightly less giving than last year.
The retail sector plans to add about 600,000 seasonal staffers between October and early January, down from 627,600 last year, said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
That number is a relatively good sign for holiday job seekers, considering the recent layoffs in several industries from media to consumer goods, he said. Many retailers are boosting their seasonal staffs as they get ready to open early on Black Friday and take on the holiday rush.
"There are a lot of temporary hires going on as retailers gear up for the holiday season," said Challenger. "Consumers might be opening up their wallets a little bit more over the holiday season."
Among the major retailers that will boost their seasonal hiring, Macy's, Kohl's and Target said they plan to add more holiday workers than they did last year.
This season Macy's plans to hire 78,000 holiday workers for its 850 U.S. stores, including Macy's and Bloomingdale's, up 4% from last year, the company said. Part of that seasonal job growth is for the midnight opening of Macy's department stores on Black Friday alone.
Kohl's said it plans to hire more than 40,000 holiday workers this season for its 1,129 U.S. stores, up 5% from last year due to store growth, the company said. In line with last year's seasonal hiring, Kohl's expects to bring on an average of 35 additional associates per store. The company had no additional staffing information for Black Friday.
Target plans to hire "slightly more holiday workers" than the 92,000 seasonal staffers it took on last year, the company said. For Black Friday, Target's 1,767 U.S. stores will increase their staffing by about 67%.
For some of those temporary workers, their performance over the next two months could determine future job opportunities.
"Last year, nearly 40% of the people who joined stayed on after the holidays as regular team members," said Molly Snyder, a Target spokesperson. "So there is a tremendous opportunity for people to take the holiday season and turn it into a regular year-round position."
That's good news for those who find work this season. But the boost in holiday hiring for Macy's, Kohl's and Target does not reflect an increase in seasonal employment across the retail industry, said Gad Levanon, associate director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board.
Among the other big-box retailers, Crate and Barrel plans to hire roughly the same number of holiday workers as they did last year, the company said, while Best Buy said in late September that it plans to cut its holiday hiring in half this year.
"For some of these big department stores, the fact that they are adding 4% or 5% more workers is good news" considering the broader economy, said Levanon.
Write to Damian Ghigliotty at Damian.Ghigliotty@dowjones.com