Christmas Hiring Is Ramping Up, but Workers Hard to Find
Searches for seasonal roles are muted.
- Seasonal hiring is ramping up, but the share of jobseeker searches for seasonal jobs is sluggish. It may not be easy to fill Christmas jobs amid broader hiring shortages.
- The share of seasonal job postings lags pre-pandemic trends, possibly reflecting the fact that retail, logistics and hospitality have already been hiring at pace for some time.
- In-person roles, such as sales assistants and food servers, are making a comeback for the 2021 holiday season, as the sectoral mix returns to pre-pandemic patterns.
Hiring for the Christmas period is well underway. Seasonal hiring typically begins in August, picks up throughout September and October and reaches a peak in November, well before Christmas arrives. But while it’s running stronger than last year’s lockdown lows, seasonal hiring has some catching up to do compared with pre-pandemic trends.
The share of searches for holiday jobs is also muted for this stage of the year. That’s a concern given already widespread staff shortages and suggests employers might struggle to bring in all the seasonal help they need over the winter.
Christmas hiring lagging pre-pandemic trends
Although hiring for seasonal jobs traditionally starts to pick up in August, the ramp up has been a little later this year and last, only really gathering momentum in September. As of 1 October 2021, the share of Christmas job postings was up 24% on the same time in 2020. But it was down 33% versus 2019 and 27% below 2018.
In 2020, the later ramp up may have partly reflected heightened uncertainty over the health situation. It did eventually catch up though, and the peak looked similar to previous years. There may be an element of caution again this year. But another factor could be the fact that sectors which typically offer numerous seasonal jobs, like retail, logistics and hospitality, have already been hiring in large volumes for several months since reopening. Many businesses are still struggling to fill permanent roles.
Search activity subdued
The share of searches for Christmas jobs is also on the rise, as is usual for the time of year. But searches are also lagging pre-pandemic trends. As of 1 October 2021, the share of seasonal searches was up 11% versus the same time in 2020, but was 27% down versus 2019 and 33% below 2018. Against a backdrop of hiring shortages in driving and hospitality, that could suggest employers won’t necessarily find it straightforward to hire the seasonal help they want. One thing that is attracting rising interest from jobseekers currently is remote work, which is not usually feasible for seasonal roles.
More seasonal hiring is for in-person roles this year
Most seasonal jobs fall in the retail or sales categories. But the Christmas shopping spree also creates roles in other parts of the economy. Goods need to be distributed from warehouses, boosting opportunities in transport and logistics. Shoppers also need refreshments, creating food service roles.
The sector mix looked different in 2020, as the pandemic drove a shift away from face-to-face services towards home-delivered goods. With the economy opening up in 2021, the sector mix has a greater emphasis on in-person roles, with higher shares of sales assistants and food servers and smaller shares of pickers, warehouse operatives and drivers.
Supply chain disruption and worker shortages have led to concerns over ‘saving Christmas’. Soft jobseeker interest as we approach peak seasonal hiring is hardly reassuring. If employers struggle to bring in the help they need in the run-up to the holiday season, it could be a case of bah humbug this Christmas.
We define seasonal job postings as those with one or more holiday-related term in the job title, including, but not limited to, “holiday,” “seasonal,” and “Christmas.” Seasonal job searches are defined as those containing one or more of the same list of holiday-related terms.
Jack is an Economist on the Indeed Hiring Lab who focuses on the UK/Ireland labour market. Before joining Indeed, Jack was a senior economist at Nationwide Building Society and prior to that at global information provider IHS Markit. He holds an MSc in finance and economic policy from SOAS, University of London and a BSc in economics and finance from the University of York.