Key Points

  • The share of job seeker searches for seasonal work on Indeed rose 33% as of September 30 compared with the year before as interest in seasonal jobs rebounded to its highest level since 2019. 
  • At the same time, employer demand for seasonal workers was down 8.2% from historic highs in 2021, while the share of job postings noting an urgent need for seasonal hires dropped from 10% to 6%. 
  • The combination of strong worker interest for seasonal employment and cooler hiring appetite could diminish job seeker bargaining power this holiday season. 

Job seeker interest in holiday work is heating up after two lukewarm years. As of September 30, holiday-related seasonal job searches on Indeed as a share of total job searches (see Methodology) reached its highest level since 2019. In contrast, employer demand for holiday workers — measured by seasonal job postings on Indeed — has cooled from last year. Such job ads were down 8.2%, but still 5.2% above pre-pandemic levels. Retail sector jobs continued to lead the pack, accounting for 56.5% of seasonal postings in September.

The combination of warming job seeker interest and cooling employer demand suggests workers may have fewer advantages in the hunt for seasonal jobs this year. Meanwhile, employers may benefit from a larger pool of potential applicants competing for fewer positions than a year ago. 

Job seeker interest in seasonal positions highest since 2019

At the end of September 2022, the share of seasonal job searches on Indeed was up 33% from the same period in 2021 and 13% over 2020. 

Line chart titled “US holiday searches above the last two years, below 2019.”
Line chart titled “US holiday searches above the last two years, below 2019.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0 to 3000, Indeed tracked holiday-related searches per million along a horizontal axis running from July to January with different colored lines representing 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. As of September 30, 2022, the share of job seeker searches for seasonal work is up by 33% compared to the 2021 trend.

Since many seasonal jobs are in-person, the increase may partly reflect an easing of job seeker worries about COVID-19. Additionally, inflation and the rising cost of living may be prompting people to look for seasonal employment to supplement household income. Still, there’s no indication US workers are taking multiple jobs at elevated rates this year. In September 2022, only 4.9% of total employment came from multiple job holders, lower than 5.3% in 2019. Multiple job-holding rates tend to tick up slightly in holiday months, but the current trend remains below pre-pandemic averages. 

Seasonal postings lower than last year, but higher than pre-pandemic levels

Holiday hiring generally picks up in early September and then climbs to a November peak. However, in the past two years, seasonal job postings have started hitting Indeed weeks ahead of the typical pattern. One reason may be that employers are getting a head start in anticipation of hiring challenges in a tight labor market. This year, the early rise in postings was temporary. Seasonal job ads soon flattened and fell behind the 2021 trend.

Line graph titled “US holiday postings below last year, above 2019 & 2020.”
Line graph titled “US holiday postings below last year, above 2019 & 2020.” With a vertical axis ranging from 100 to 400, Indeed tracked a 2019-based index of Christmas and seasonal job levels. The horizontal axis displays months from February to December, with different colored lines representing each year between 2019 and 2022. As of September 30, 2021, seasonal job postings were 8.2% below where they were in 2021 but 5.2% above 2019.

Historically, retail positions account for the largest share of seasonal job postings on Indeed. This trend has held in 2022 so far, with the sector accounting for 56.5% of all seasonal job ads. Sales positions made up 8.5% of seasonal postings through Sept. 30, while loading & stocking and customer service jobs accounted for 2.3% and 2.1% respectively.

Urgency to hire for seasonal positions lower than last year

Not only are employers advertising fewer openings on Indeed, but they’re also showing less urgency to fill those jobs. In September 2021, around 10% of holiday-related job ads used words that expressed an urgent need to hire, such as “hiring urgently,” “urgent hire,” or “immediate start.” Fast forward a year and the intensity has faded, with a little over 6% of seasonal job postings communicating hiring urgency this September. This drop is significant, but hiring intensity and urgency are still elevated compared with pre-COVID trends.

Bar chart titled “Urgency to hire for seasonal jobs down from 2021, above 2020.”
Bar chart titled “Urgency to hire for seasonal jobs down from 2021, above 2020.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 12%, Indeed compared the percentage of holiday-related seasonal jobs advertising hiring incentives and the percentage of seasonal jobs hiring urgently with different colored bars representing 2020, 2021, and 2022. As of September 30, 2022, 6.3% of seasonal job postings mention hiring urgently in the job description, compared with 10.1% in 2021.

The number of job postings offering hiring incentives such as signing bonuses or cash tells a similar story. As of September 30, only 0.7% of seasonal job postings advertised hiring incentives — a 2.6 percentage point decrease from the 3.3% spike in September 2021. This pullback, along with fewer job postings and less urgency, suggests softening employer demand and reduced intensity in the hunt for seasonal workers. 

Conclusion

High inflation and easing COVID-19 concerns may be prompting more people to look for seasonal work this winter. At the same time, employers are pulling back from 2021’s hot holiday hiring levels and offering fewer incentives to prospective workers — perhaps due to recession concerns. Nevertheless, the labor market remains tight despite softening and holiday hiring remains well above pre-pandemic levels.  

Methodology

We define seasonal job postings as those with one or more holiday-related terms in the job title, including, but not limited to, “holiday,” “seasonal,” and “Christmas.” Definitions change slightly from year to year, so previous holiday hiring blogs are not directly comparable. Seasonal job searches are defined as those containing one or more of the same list of holiday-related terms.

We define urgent hiring job postings as those in which words like “hiring urgently,” “urgent hire,” “immediate start,” “urgent vacancy,” or “start today” appear in the job description. These postings do not refer to the “hiring urgently” tag visible to job seekers on Indeed. 

We define hiring incentive job postings as those that have terms related to signing bonuses or retention bonuses, or contain “bonus,” “bonuses,” or “incentive” in the title of the job posting. Signing bonus job postings are defined as those that include terms like “signing bonus,” “sign on bonus,” “signing incentive,” or “bonus for signing on” in the job description. Retention bonus jobs are defined as postings that include terms like “retention bonus” or “longevity bonus” in the job description.