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Seasonal Employment In Retail Slows From 2020 And 2021 Levels

Luke Pardue Economist, Gusto 
Woman business owner working at computer at the check out counter in her natural clothing retail shop

Gusto data shows employment growth in Retail has been significantly slower leading up to the holiday shopping season in 2022 compared to the prior two years, in line with recent announcements from major retailers like Walmart that they will hire fewer seasonal workers this year.  As the holiday shopping season is expected to be busier than ever, retailers this year are balancing a tight labor market and high inflation – and they are doing so by looking to new pools of workers and having their employees work a little more each week.  

Inflation is squeezing employers’ ability to raise wages and workers continue to have their pick of jobs across industries in this still-hot labor market. Retail hiring grew at a monthly rate of 0.3% in September 2022, below the 1.4% growth rate seen in 2020 and 2021 – but more in line with the 0.5% pace in September 2019. As retailers face higher costs across the board, they haven’t been able to raise wages in order to stay competitive: annual wage growth in Retail has fallen from 7.4% in January 2022 to 5.1% in September 2022. 

Despite these challenges, Gusto data shows that owners are finding ways to meet the demands of the season, by increasing hiring of younger workers and boosting the hours of current employees. Teens accounted for 14% of all hires in retail in September 2022, compared to 8% in September of last year (and just 2% in September 2019). Also, average weekly hours of current employees in Retail reached 36 hours in September, compared to 32 hours last year and 30 hours per week in 2019.

Luke Pardue
Luke Pardue Luke Pardue is an Economist at Gusto, researching how public policies help small businesses and their workers thrive. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, where he studied the effects of government programs on disadvantaged populations' housing and labor market outcomes. Luke currently lives in Washington, D.C.
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