Seasonal Hirings to Hit a Record High

If you want to earn some extra cash for the holidays, you’ll have a better chance than ever of landing a temporary job as retailers and delivery companies announce a record number of seasonal hires.

(Image credit: ©Nancy Louie)

Question: What does the market for seasonal jobs look like this year? What types of companies are hiring, and when is the best time to apply?

Answer: The outlook is strong, with companies so far announcing plans to hire more than 704,000 seasonal workers, breaking the previous record of 696,000 in 2014.

“This is the largest number of announced new hires that we’ve recorded,” says Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement and executive coaching firm. He attributes the improvement to a low unemployment rate and healthy economy. “People have extra money in their pockets this season, and most of these retailers are expecting that demand will be high,” he says. “There is a huge demand for labor and a war for talent.”

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Competition to get workers is helping wages, too. Amazon announced that it will be paying a minimum hourly wage of $15, which Challenger expects will put pressure on other retailers to increase their hourly pay.

Many companies are hiring seasonal workers in October and early November, but a few started as early as July. “Companies want to get people in and trained before the holiday rush,” he says. “But there’s a lot of turnover in retail. If you went in September or early October and they didn’t have any openings, go back in November and oftentimes there will be more jobs.”

One strategy to landing a seasonal job is to look beyond the sales floor, even when applying to a retailer. Two companies with the largest hiring announcements have big e-commerce businesses: Target plans to hire 120,000 seasonal workers, and Amazon plans to hire 100,000.

“We’ve seen a shift in the types of jobs, and a shift of geography, too,” says Challenger. The largest job growth is at warehouses and distribution centers, which are often outside of large cities. You can search for jobs online at and Amazon is also holding job fairs across the country for positions fulfilling customer orders, sorting packages and loading trucks at delivery stations and its fulfillment and sorting centers.

Shipping companies are also adding tens of thousands of seasonal workers. UPS, for example, plans to take on 100,000 seasonal workers, and Fedex plans to hire 55,000. Most of UPS’s seasonal positions are package handlers, drivers and driver-helpers.

And traditional retailers will also be adding temporary employees. Macy’s plans to hire 80,000 seasonal workers this year, Kohl’s expects to take on 90,000 and the Gap plans to hire 65,000. You can search on their websites for seasonal work., for example, has listings for positions in its stores, for its e-commerce business and distribution centers. Or you can apply for work at a store in person. “Show up and try to talk with the hiring manager,” says Challenger.

Consider other types of businesses that add workers during the holidays, such as hospitality, restaurants, caterers, event venues and hotels that host holiday parties. You may find these jobs through local job listings, or you can search for seasonal jobs at, or

No matter what type of seasonal job you’re looking for, you’ll better your chances of landing one if you can work flexible hours. “The holidays are the toughest time to get employees to work, and it helps if you can work during the hours when other people don’t want to,” says Challenger. That’s usually at night and on weekends.

A seasonal job not only brings in some extra money for the holidays, but it can provide an employee discount. And it may also give you a foot in the door for a permanent position.

“In some ways, a holiday job is like a three-month long interview process,” says Challenger. “If you prove yourself as a good employee, you very likely will get a good offer to stay on full-time at the end.” At UPS, for example, 35% of the people hired by the delivery company as seasonal package handlers over the past three years were later hired for permanent jobs after the holidays.

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.