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Those seeking holiday jobs face stiff competition

Debbie Archambault, of St. Clair Shores, takes out Power Ranger toys headed for the shelves on Monday, Oct.13, 2003, in Roseville, Mich. Archambault, a floor associate at the Toys R Us store in Roseville, has been busy lately restocking the shelves at the store. Retail sales expected to rise this holiday season and many stores are hiring holiday help now. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Eric Seals)

For holiday job seekers hoping to land work that ultimately becomes permanent, opportunities will be limited. And with the official kick off of the shopping season two weeks away, competition for holiday jobs will remain stiff.

Target’s Calumet City store has received roughly 1,500 applications for 40 to 60 seasonal positions – the typical number hired for the holidays at Target stores, said Latessa Conner, the store’s Executive Team Leader for Human Resources.

Target expects to hire more than 92,000 seasonal workers nationally, up slightly from last year.

“We get tons of applications that we review daily,” said Terrell Howard, Store Team Leader in Calumet City.

That’s not surprising to hiring experts.

“There are more candidates in general, and those that are out there are more highly skilled,” said Erin Peterson, Recruitment Process Outsourcing Practice Leader at Aon Hewitt in Chicago. “Right now, more than ever employers have plenty of people to choose from.”

At River Oaks Mall in Calumet City, the mall had no trouble drawing applicants for a single guest services representative position to be filled by mall management, said spokeswoman Rhonda Hunter. The mall received as many as 75 applications for that one position, which Hunter, contends paints a picture of the state of the economy.

“It says that people need jobs,” she said. “We have students. We have people with master’s degrees. We have it all,” she noted of resumes mall management received.

The latest government reports show the unemployment rate at 9.8 percent in the Chicago area.

Target’s Howard said he has seen more people this year “asking about permanent employment, what is our process for that. I’ve gotten that question more this year than in previous years.”

It’s possible for Target’s seasonal jobs to turn into permanent positions, but it’s not typical, Howard said.

At Toys R Us, which plans to hire more than 40,000 employees nationally, including more than 1,300 at its roughly 30 stores in the Chicago market, seasonal work has sometimes led to permanent jobs. Spokeswoman Jennifer Albano said roughly 10 percent of the seasonal workers hired last year are still with the company.

Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz said “seasonal employment is a good opportunity for an associate to experience our company’s culture and for the company to assess an associate’s skills.” She added many year-round employees started out as seasonal associates.

Macy’s plans to hire 78,000 seasonal workers, up 4 percent from last year. The retailer, which has 18 stores in the Chicago area, is looking for staff for its call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers as well as sales support staff.

The National Retail Federation expects retailers to hire 480,000 to 500,000 seasonal workers this year, compared to 496,000 hired last year and 637,000 hired in 2007 before the recession kicked into full gear.

UPS plans to hire 55,000 seasonally workers nationally, including more than 2,600 in the Chicago area to work as driver helpers, package sorters, loaders and unloaders. The national number is up from the 50,000 UPS hired in 2010.

The vast majority of UPS seasonal hires are part-time workers making $8.50 an hour or higher depending on the job, according to UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin. Driver helpers make nearly $13 an hour, and tractor-trailer drivers make about $16 an hour, she said.

FedEx plans to hire 20,000 people nationally this season. Average hourly compensation for part-time package handlers is $8 to $11 an hour, according to spokeswoman Carla Boyd.

A survey released by CareerBuilder this month found most employers who responded planned to keep holiday hiring on par with 2010, but more were planning to bump up pay. The survey found 53 percent said they will pay $10 or more per hour to seasonal staff. That’s up from 48 percent last year. Fourteen percent said they will pay $16 or more an hour, up from 9 percent.

Those in the market for seasonal work need to get going, said Rick Parker, a senior vice president at Snagajob, which released a holiday hiring survey in September. He noted hiring managers who responded said they expected to have nearly half of their hiring wrapped up by the end of October.

Many employers plan to complete hiring by the end of this month, although some plan to hire into December.