Holiday hiring helps ease unemployment numbers

November 3, 2011 7:29:25 PM PDT
There's a new sign that the job market could be picking up: The Labor Department says 397,000 people signed up last week for first-time unemployment benefits, which is 9,000 less than last week and the lowest number in more than a month.

The reason might have to do with season help at the mall and other retail stores. The most-popular recruiters at one job fair in San Jose were in search of season help for the holidays.

Victoria's Secret at the Great Mall of the Bay Area is looking for good women and men.

"We're looking for about 100 employees to apply," said Lisa Ramirez "We're having a good turnout here."

Ramirez said there will be 24 hour shifts to cover at the store since the malls open at midnight on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Many job seekers covet seasonal retail jobs, even if the pay isn't high.

"I got $9 an hour for my last seasonal job, so I'm hoping for $9 an hour," said applicant Katrina Luis. "Can't really be very picky because then they won't hire you if you want a higher salary."

Luis may be in for a surprise. A new survey of hiring managers indicate some employers are paying $10 and even $16 an hour.

Macy's, Kohl's and Target are each planning to hire more seasonal workers than last year -- a combined total of 210,000 people. Crate & Barrel and Best Buy will hire the same amount of workers or just fewer than last year.

The Macy's website has 40 pages of seasonal positions for its stores in California. Job fair organizer Rose Amador said some jobs could lead to full-time employment.

"A lot of people are applying for them because at least it's a job that might lead to something permanent," Amador said. "Some of them will be staying on at some of the companies."

One-third of employers told the website CareerBuilder.com they will keep some of their seasonal workers.

"I'm hoping that this time I can actually get my foot in the door," said De Anza college student Darren Swanson. "I just gave Walmart my resume and now I have an interview tomorrow."

Nearly a quarter of a million people worked in the holiday retail sector last year in the South Bay, but that was down nearly 1 percent from the year before. Any uptick in hiring this holiday season could be seen as a bright spot.


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