Labor shortages will mean heftier bonuses, more cash for holiday jobs: Indeed

As the holiday season approaches, retailers are trying to mitigate a worsening labor shortage by boosting financial incentives for new hires. Amazon, Walmart, and Target, for instance, are among the major retailers advertising sign-on bonuses right on their job postings.

The number of retail jobs increased by 56,000 in September, with the largest gains occurring in clothing stores (27,000) and general merchandise stores (16,000), according to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But overall employment in the sector is down 202,000 from pre-pandemic levels.

Job search site Indeed has seen a recent increase in employers sweetening the deal for seasonal jobs including retail, customer service, loading and stocking, and sales. In the seven days ending Oct. 3, 3.2% of seasonal job postings on Indeed highlighted financial incentives such as signing bonuses or cash, up from 0.6% during the same period in 2020.

So far, job seeker reaction to employers' sense of urgency has been “lukewarm at best,” according to Indeed. The job search site found that the share of searches for seasonal work fell 9.2% in the week ending Oct. 3, compared with the same period last year and 38% in 2019.

SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 03: A customer walks by a We're Hiring sign outside a Target store on June 03, 2021 in Sausalito, California. According to a U.S. Labor Department report, jobless claims fell for a fifth straight week to 385,000. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A customer walks by a We're Hiring sign outside a Target store on June 03, 2021 in Sausalito, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

"We’re not seeing a rebound in job seeker interest in holiday jobs this year,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, told Yahoo Finance. Peak holiday hiring season usually takes place in November, but waiting until then will cost employers, says Konkel.

“If job seeker interest does not improve they are going to be competing for a smaller and smaller basket of available job seekers and then they may have to increase those hiring incentives,” said Konkel. “Heftier bonuses, more cash.”

Employers’ anxiety about seasonal hiring is evident in job postings. According to Indeed, the share of seasonal job postings indicating that hiring is “urgent” has grown tenfold in the week ending Oct. 3 from the same period last year.

Ten percent of seasonal job postings include terms like “urgent hire,” “immediate openings,” “urgent vacancy,” and “start today,” up from 0.9% during the same period in 2020.

Adding that “urgent” language to a job description is “a way to compete with other employers who are trying to find the workers that they need,” said Konkel.

Holiday online shopping increased 32.2% in 2020 totaling $188.2 billion from $142.5 billion in 2019, according to Adobe Analytics.

“It’s difficult to say what the pandemic situation is going to look like [during the holidays],” said Konkel. “Employers are trying to hedge their bets so that they have staff both in stores as well as to fill online orders.”

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