11/28/08 — Local seasonal employment down

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Local seasonal employment down

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on November 28, 2008 1:46 PM

People may not be spending as much on holiday gifts this year, but in the tradition of the season, shoppers are still expected to be out in masses over the next few weeks.

And customers might have to wait in slightly longer lines because many retail stores won't have as many holiday employees on hand as they have in years past.

Megan Anstey, a supervisor at JCPenney in the Berkeley Mall, said that the store isn't hiring as many people as they normally do this time of year.

"We probably hire about 30 people for the holiday season, but this year, we hired about 20," she said.

Most of those employees know that they will be out of a job by January, but Ms. Anstey hopes to keep some on if the hours are available.

And although the economy has made consumers watch their wallets a little more, she still expects store employees to stay very busy.

"We probably will have a bigger rush than last year because the savings are so big, and people are trying to save money," she said.

Bill Pate, manager of the local Employment Security Commission, said that seasonal employment around the holiday season will likely be down this year.

"Businesses are being a little cautious on their hiring because they aren't sure what their customers are going to do yet," he said. "People are really watching their budgets and won't be buying as much as they did last year."

He said he couldn't put a number on the amount that he expects seasonal employment to drop from last year, but he believes it is directly related to the economy.

When the economy is good, consumers spend more and more retail employees are needed -- whether it is around holiday time or not, he said.

"I think holiday employment is going to be down this year, but I hope I'm wrong," he said.

Seasonal employment at Belk in the Berkeley Mall is down from last year.

"We're just not hiring quite as many," Brandon Rice, merchandising coordinator for the store, said.

When the economy is in better shape, the store would hire about 20 people, but Rice said they have hired a little less this year.

Still, he expects people to get in the spirit by buying presents, especially today on Black Friday.

"Even when the economy is bad, it seems to still be a good day for us," Rice said.

He expects the rest of the holiday season to still be steady, and he knows that each store employee might have to shoulder just a little more work.

"It will raise the workload just a little, but we will be OK. It's still going to be a pretty good holiday shopping season -- a little slower than last year, but still strong," Rice said.

Bernice Gorum of Kmart said that their holiday help will be the same as last year -- about 30 employees -- because they are expecting this holiday season to be a great year for the store.

"I think it's going to be better than last year," she said. "There's a lot of different items that we have on sale that are special. And it's just the time of year."

Many of the store managers said that they have seen a slight increase in applications for employment this year, but they can only hire what the consumers' business will support.

At Walmart, Assistant Front Store Manager Jovita Baluwut said that they received 300 applications for the holiday season this year -- an increase from last year -- but could only hire 20 to 25 people.