published Sunday, September 30th, 2012

How to land a job at Amazon, others as holiday hiring under way

The Amazon Fulfillment Services facility in Bradley County has storage capacity equal to approximately 67,187 full-size pickup truck beds.
The Amazon Fulfillment Services facility in Bradley County has storage capacity equal to approximately 67,187 full-size pickup truck beds.
Photo by John Rawlston.
  • photo
    Target shoppers Jill Boller, right, and Stacy McKinney look at the Christmas decorations on sale at the Gunbarrel Road location. Holiday-season hiring is sure to begin shortly.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
    enlarge photo

RETAILS JOBS

Number added nationally duringholiday season

657,700 in 2011

660,200 in 2010

495,800 in 2009

324,900 in 2008

720,800 in 2007

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas

Shopping center sales

Holiday season national sales by year:

$463 billion in 2012 (forecast)

$452 billion in 2011

$434 billion in 2010

$417 billion in 2009

$420 billion in 2008

$439 billion in 2007

Source: International Council of Shopping Centers

With the Christmas season coming up, Jenny Eaves says she's hunting for a job that will employ her not just through the holidays but into the months beyond.

Laid off from her office post in August, the Ringgold, Ga., woman said at the Tennessee Career Center last week the job market remains tough.

"You have to stand out," she said. "A lot of people are applying."

The holidays are slated to create thousands of job opportunities in the Chattanooga area, though most of the retail and delivery slots are only seasonal. With Amazon likely to hire up to 1,500 or so temporary workers alone in Southeast Tennessee, the Chattanooga area is expected to see a big bump during the season.

Some retailers, such as Target and Hobby Lobby, have already started taking applications as they zero in on the biggest sales quarter of the year that often generates much of the yearly store profits.

"I would say that we will end up hiring more people this year than in years past," said Vincent Parker, a spokesman for Hobby Lobby, which has a pair of Chattanooga stores.

The outplacement consulting firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. projects that national seasonal job gains are likely to be slightly higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.

With uncertainty in the economy, Challenger expects many retailers to start their staffing at last year's levels and hire additional workers only if strong sales early in the season warrant. Last year, retail payrolls saw a non-seasonally adjusted net gain of 1.9 percent from 2010, according to Challenger.

Still, Catharine Wells at Hamilton Place mall said overall hiring for stores at the center likely will be up 20 percent to 30 percent during the holidays.

With 4,000 people already employed at the mall and nearby shopping centers owned by CBL & Associates Properties Inc., that's "good news," she said.

"It's a big number," Wells said.

For people like Eaves who hope to stay employed after Christmas, it depends on the business, Wells said.

"Every store I've spoken to answers that differently," she said. "It's a store-by-store basis."

Kohl's, which has three stores in the Chattanooga area, has said it plans to increase seasonal hiring nationally this year to 52,700, up from 40,000 in 2011.

Amazon said it plans to add seasonal workers nationally at its distribution facilities. Many of those will come at distribution centers in Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn.

R.J. Sherr, who works with Amazon for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said the two centers likely will increase staff by 1,200 to 1,500 temporary workers over the holidays. Amazon centers in Wilson and Rutherford counties also are expected to bolster hiring, he said.

Gary Farlow, who heads the Bradley/Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, said Amazon hiring will definitely help the area's job market in the fourth quarter.

"A lot of folks like those seasonal jobs," Farlow said. "It's nice to have that kind of employer."

Farlow said that P&G Duracell in Cleveland usually readies for the holidays as it produces batteries for Christmas electronics purchases.

"They generally ramp up for Christmas," he said.

Jeff Hentschel, communications director for the state Department of Labor, said that prior to the recession, holiday hiring was dependable in terms of job hikes.

Now, he said, employers are doing more with less, though last year there was an increase.

"Hopefully, we'll see another," he said.

Challenger noted that Target has unveiled plans to add fewer holiday workers. Target reported plans to add 80,000 to 90,000 seasonal workers, down from the 92,000 it hired a year ago.

Locally, its Gunbarrel Road store has already started taking applications, said Will Price, a manager.

"We'll be hiring through October for the Christmas season," he said.

Price said it was hard to put exact numbers on how many people the store will bring on.

"We'll see how it goes," he said, adding that the store basically will accept all applicants and take the most qualified.

Challenger said that shippers UPS and FedEx also are expected to add sizable numbers of workers to handle holiday packages.

Walmart plans to give current workers the chance to work more hours and will hire more than 50,000 seasonal employees as it gets ready for the holiday season, according to Challenger.

The International Council of Shopping Centers, an industry group, projects that retailers countrywide will add over 26,000 seasonal jobs this year, a slight hike over 2011.

In addition, ICSC is forecasting a 3 percent increase in chain-store sales this year over last.

A big question potentially impacting Christmas spending is congressional deliberations over automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases slated for early 2013.

Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist, said in a statement that Congress has a chance to resolve the issue quickly and calm consumer fears.

He said such action "could propel this season's performance far above ICSC's current expectations."

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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