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Retail: October Seasonal Hiring vs. Holiday Retail Sales


Every year I track seasonal retail hiring for hints about holiday retail sales.  At the bottom of this post is a graph showing the correlation between October seasonal hiring and holiday retail sales.

Here is a graph of retail hiring for previous years based on the BLS employment report:

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year.

Retailers hired 509 thousand seasonal workers last year (using BLS data, Not Seasonally Adjusted), and 144 thousand seasonal workers last October.

Note that in the early ’90s, retailers started hiring seasonal workers earlier – and the trend towards hiring earlier has continued.

The following scatter graph is for the years 2005 through 2022 and compares October retail hiring with the real increase (inflation adjusted) for retail sales (Q4 over previous Q4).

In general October hiring is a pretty good indicator of seasonal sales. R-square is 0.77 for this small sample. Note: This uses retail sales in Q4, and excludes autos, gasoline and restaurants. 

NOTE: The dot in the upper right – with real Retail sales up over 10% YoY is for 2020 – when retail sales soared due to the pandemic spending on goods (service spending was soft).

When the October employment report is released on November 3rd, I’ll be looking at seasonal retail hiring for hints on what the retailers actually expect for the holiday season.

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