The seasons are changing and so are retail employment trends. During the depths of the recent recession seasonal employment trends for many industries were subdued by soft hiring activity.
The distress in Idaho’s retail trade industry was especially prevalent between 2008 and 2010. Average employment for all Idaho’s industries in 2012 was still 7 percent below pre-recession levels. But retail trade employment was down 8.4 percent. Even though employment numbers are still down, signs of health are returning.
Monthly employment figures for industries that exhibit seasonal trends often can appear volatile. Retail trade employment is usually at its lowest each February. By that time the holiday shopping season – and the cleanup that follows – has ended. As spring approaches hiring begins again – expanding through August. Once the back-to-school shopping is over, employment falls slightly through September and October.
Then the fun begins. Between September and November 2012, Idaho added over 2,700 retail jobs – a 3 percent burst in only two months. During the recession years of 2008 and 2009 Idaho only added 1 percent during the September through November timeframe. In 2010 retail employment grew 2 percent. Since then growth returned to the 3 percent range.
Before the recession’s start, retail employment would typically fall by 4 or 5 percent between November of one year and February the following year. But the 2009-2010 shopping season was an exception – employment fell by 8.8 percent. Retailers must have overestimated the number of positions needed to staff their stores. The recession’s grasp on household disposable income also impacted sales. Since then the post season reductions have remained around 6 percent.
Some areas of Idaho have stronger retail seasonal patterns than others. Idaho’s populous southwestern region – which includes the Boise area – shows the strongest retail seasonal trend. This could result from increased numbers of holiday shoppers in more remote areas traveling to Boise for extra-large shopping trips – something that may not happen as frequently during other parts of the year. December retail employment for the southwestern region is typically 4 percent higher than its annual average.
In contrast, south central Idaho’s December employment is only 1.8 percent higher than its annual average. The state’s December retail employment figures are usually 3 percent higher than the annual average. For all regions of the state, May retail employment is close to the annual average.
Seasonally adjusted Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages figures through the first quarter of 2013 are showing positive retail hiring trends. Retail trade accounts for over 12 percent of all covered employment in Idaho. The returns to typical seasonal trends are also a positive sign of health for the retail trade industry and could indicate good things for economic conditions as a whole.
Will.Jenson@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 557-2500 ext. 3077
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This article originally appeared in the October issue of the Idaho Department of Labor’s monthly economic and employment newsletter. Interested in reading more articles like this? Please send an email to Donna.Corn@labor.idaho.gov to subscribe to the newsletter.