High Unemployment Means Stiff Competition for Seasonal Retail Jobs

holidaygift

When you holiday shop this year, a highly educated professional might help you wrap your order. So many people are out of work that demand for holiday season retail jobs has spiked. From Yahoo News:

(A) record 5.9 million Americans…have been jobless for at least six months. Now…out-of-work professionals and managers, engineers and teachers who have turned, in desperation, to holiday-season jobs as sales clerks. Retailers report a surge in applications this year from professionals who had never applied for such jobs before.

In a bleak labor market, holiday-season hiring has meant at least a respite for many long-term unemployed. Not that it’s easy to land even these jobs. Most retailers have cut back. And overall in the economy, six applicants, on average, are competing for each opening — compared with just 1.7 workers per opening when the recession began in December 2007.

The trend illustrates the despair of unemployed people with professional backgrounds who face a pitiless job market, said John Lonski, chief economist of Moody’s Capital Markets Research Group. Even though the economy has begun growing again, employers aren’t confident enough in the recovery or their own businesses to step up hiring.

That helps explain why shoppers who phone customer service at online retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering get Scott Beebe, a trained engineer with two postgraduate degrees and eight years of experience in product development for General Motors.

This story highlights two facets of the recession. One, although it may be a stretch to call it a white-collar recession, many white-collar workers and service professionals are hitting the unemployment lines. Secondly, as Jody Greenstone Miller noted in this WSJ article, temp jobs may become the new norm. Most holiday retail jobs are by nature temporary, but the fact that qualified white-collar professionals are willing to take them suggests that in times of scarcity, even a temp job is a good job. Combine that attitude with the fact that more and more companies want to beef up the amount of temps they hire, and you have a future where long-term becomes as rare as temp was in the past.