Unwrapping Holiday Hiring

by Luke Coury

November 28, 2023

The holiday season provides retailers and package delivery companies with a much needed end-of-year boost in sales. To respond to this increase in demand, some businesses hire extra workers, often on a temporary basis. Businesses with this kind of strong holiday employment pattern comprise “holiday hiring” industries.

An industry’s “holiday buildup,” or the number of employees added during the holiday season, is a convenient way to measure holiday hiring activity. Oregon’s buildup in traditional holiday hiring industries was 6,880 in 2022, representing a 4.7% increase compared with the pre-buildup employment level in September.

Couriers and Messengers Deliver Largest Holiday Buildup

Holiday buildup was especially concentrated in a few holiday hiring industries in 2022. The private couriers and messengers industry had the largest buildup, adding 3,046 jobs. Along with postal services, the other major package delivering industry, couriers and messengers accounted for about 45% of the total holiday hiring buildup. Other industries with a large buildup included general merchandise retailers (2,260) and clothing, clothing accessories, shoe, and jewelry retailers (1,343).
Table showing Couriers and Messengers Have the Largest Buildups

2023’s Wish List

Holiday buildups typically lead to corresponding post-holiday employment declines as businesses adjust back to the usual pace of sales. It is possible, however, that the labor shortages experienced by many businesses during 2023 could reduce post-holiday staffing reductions. Since workers have been hard to find, employers could be more reluctant to let go of employees once they have them.

We won’t know how this season’s holiday hiring compares with prior years until sometime in the New Year, but employment forecasts can suggest what the future might bring. The December 2023 employment forecast from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) projects Oregon’s retail trade employment to shrink by almost 300 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2023. OEA expects transportation, warehousing, and utilities to increase by around 300 jobs in the same period. It is important to note that these forecasts are for entire sectors, not just holiday hiring industries. Still, they suggest that the holiday buildup may be below average this year.

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