Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting

Will COVID-19 Impact Holiday Hiring?

The hunt for holiday talent would normally be well underway in “normal” circumstances, but given the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve come to expect that nothing is “normal” these days, and that can be said for holiday hiring, as well.

Source: CarmenKarin / shutterstock

Brick-and-mortar stores typically start increasing holiday head counts at the end of summer in preparation for the holiday season, but with social distancing guidelines and safety precautions in place, will Black Friday be the frenzied shopping event we’ve come to expect it to be?

If Amazon is any indication of what’s in store, we’re going to predict that this shopping season may be similar to the way we work: remote. Amazon usually has its Black Friday equivalent—Prime Day—in mid-July, but due to the pandemic, the company has pushed the event to October 13 and 14. With shoppers getting such great deals well in advance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, will there be a need for talent in physical locations?

What the Data Tell Us

According to iCIMS’s monthly Insights report for September, “During the height of the pandemic, hiring for full-time retail roles dropped to account for only 28% of hiring activity during April and May. In August, we’re seeing an increase in the demand for full-time employees, now making up 34% of all hires—still 10 percentage points away from pre-pandemic levels.”

“However, openings started to ramp up during the final week of August, meeting 2019 activity for the first time since March,” iCIMS adds. Because the report only includes data for August, it will be interesting to see if the October Insights report sheds more light on this positive news.

But, if we combine iCIMS data with new poll findings from, we can get a bigger picture. In August, retail trade added 249,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As more locations continue to open, along with back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons, retailers will likely have to ramp up hiring. “As the BLS report showed, retail rebounded in August (accounting for over 17% of the 1.4 million jobs filled in the month) and Monster’s search patterns reflect a renewed interest in retail jobs,” says the career site.

“Our expectations are positive,” says Mark Mathews, vice president of research development and industry analysis for the National Retail Federation, in Monster’s first “Jobs & Hiring Report: Trends for Fall 2020.” “Retailers I speak to are planning on having a busy holiday season.”

“Retail-related seeker searches have increased over the last two weeks with keywords like retail, sales, store manager, retail manager on the rise, alongside an uptick in new Sales/Retail/Business Development resume postings on Monster,” adds Monster. “At the same time, Monster has seen increases in Sales and Related Occupations and Customer Service Representative job postings.”

Candidate Sentiment

With holiday hiring expected to somewhat match 2019 levels, this news comes as a relief for jobseekers looking to get back into the workforce. Monster polled users on September 4 and September 18 to gauge jobseeker sentiment, and the results were optimistic. Monster poll data reveal:

  • An overwhelming majority of candidates (90%) are ready to reassess and reflect on their goals at this point in the year. Searching for a new job is at the top of nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents’ “to do” list.
  • More than half (58%) are optimistic that the jobs market will turn around by the end of the year.  
  • For those who would like to remain in their current roles, a focus on productivity is high, with 43% of employees seeking to be as productive as possible in their current jobs.
  • This fall and winter, 84% plan to apply for seasonal work, with the largest percentage (46%) interested in applying to generate extra income.
  • When it comes to seasonal job industries trending this year, the most popular are customer service (39%), retail (21%), and logistics (15%).
  • In any given year, about 53% of respondents look for seasonal work in the fall and winter.

2020 has been anything but normal, and while the economy still has a long way to go in terms of recovery, seeing the optimism jobseekers have for the state of hiring in the future should be a breath of fresh air for many. However, with Prime Day looming on the horizon, it remains to be seen how this change will impact retailers’ bottom lines.