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With more retail sales forecast, Minnesota is expected to see more holiday jobs than previous years

REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced in October that retail sales in November and December are expected to increase by 4 percent nationwide compared to the 2016 holiday season, when shoppers spent more $655 billion.

An expected increase in retail sales during the holiday season is expected to also mean a lot more temporary jobs in Minnesota and nationwide.

“It should be another good year,” said Steve Hine, director of labor market information at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). “There should be a lot of shoppers out there as well as an increased share of online purchasing.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced in October that retail sales in November and December are expected to increase by 4 percent nationwide compared to the 2016 holiday season, when shoppers spent more $655 billion.   

That means retailers are adding more jobs during the holiday rush. NRF reports that retailers could add as many as 550,000 part-time and temporary jobs nationwide during the season. In fact, some employers began filling positions in September.  

Hine said that DEED doesn’t have complete data looking at the state’s seasonal jobs in November and December, the retail industry's busiest time of the year. But its October employment figures reveal that retailers added more than 3,300 jobs in September and October. “That’s the largest one-month gain in retail since 2005,” he said.

Over the last six years, Minnesota has seen an average of about 12,000 jobs increase between September and December in retail each year, or 4.1 percent employment growth. This season, the state is expected to see more than that.

One explanation for that, Hine said, is because of the state’s overall improved economy and employment growth. The unemployment rate last year was 4 percent; today, that number has ticked down to 3.3 percent.  

Individuals who take the holiday jobs, Hine said, are often students or have permanent jobs, and they use the season as an opportunity to make extra income for holiday-related reasons or to make ends meet.     

With a tight labor maker, however, employers are also expected to struggle to fill the seasonal job positions, most of which pay the minimum wage or a little higher. 

The dearth of workers could be exacerbated by the fact that many in lower paying jobs — like those in retail or food service — have been leaving for fields that pay more wages and better benefits. Some of those people, Hine said, include young college graduates, who struggled to find jobs during the recession, who are now moving into jobs that are more aligned with their education.   

“Employers are going to have a harder time finding workers this year than previous years,” he said, “simply because of tightening workforce conditions and more competition for those increasingly scarce workers.”

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