According to Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer will be filling 55,000 seasonal positions and will elevate 70,000 other employees to full-time or part-time positions as the holiday shopping season nears. The company indicated that more than 35,000 temporary employees will move up to part-time status while 35,000 workers will be given full-time work. That shift in employment will result in Wal-Mart offering benefits to more workers. The shift in jobs also may help Wal-Mart following a recent group of attacks from labor groups complaining about skimpy wages and benefits.
During the holiday season last year, Wal-Mart hired 50,000 extra workers and offered more hours in general to existing staff. Coming off a slower than anticipated back to school season, stores are getting ready for a challenging holiday period, which accounts for up to 40 percent of the retail market’s annual revenue. Analysts study the holiday hiring figures that are provided by the retailers in order to get clues about employment trends and holiday sales expectations. Stores start hiring in the middle of September then ramp up the staff numbers by the middle of November.
The increase of full-time positions with benefits instead of offering temporary jobs is a major move from what is usually found at retailers. Retailers often focus on part-time workers, which don’t offer benefits, as a way to keep costs low.
Wal-Mart Stores, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the largest employer in the U.S. with more than 1.3 million part-time and full-time employees. Whether the employees with an increase of hours get benefits will be dependent upon how long they have worked with the discount retailer. On average, full-time Wal-Mart employees work 37 hours weekly and part-time employees average 27 hours. Employees hired prior to February 2012 get benefits if they average 24 hours weekly while employees hired later must work 30 hours weekly for benefits.
Overall, holiday hiring is expected to remain flat among most retailers because consumers are exercising cautious spending. Uncertainty remains about the economic situation. Employer consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimate the seasonal hiring overall will not vary greatly from the totals last year, when hiring increased 14 percent to 751,800 jobs from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.
Other retailers are starting to announce their holiday hiring plans. Target Corp. plans to hire 70,000 seasonal workers, a 20 percent drop from last year. Kohl’s is set to hire 53,000 seasonal employees.
Wal-Mart shares rose 53 cents to hit $76.36 in Monday afternoon trading.