Idaho Holiday Hiring Patterns Evolving

Love it or hate it, the holiday season for retailers is a crazy extravaganza of shopping and consumerism. More shopping days besides Black Friday are getting their own names such as Gray Thursday and Cyber Monday.

The evolution of the shopping tradition fuels the economic life and hiring of retail in the final quarter of the year and influences the pattern of hiring holiday help in Idaho. This year, with the unemployment rate down to 4.0 percent, establishments looking for holiday help may have a hard time finding the employees they need.

Despite what seems to be progressively earlier arrivals of holiday decorations and other merchandise at local retailers – now as early as September – the spike of hiring in retail has a consistent November arrival in Idaho. October generally does not see much growth from the previous month with an average of 0.4 percent growth from 2004 to 2014 as indicated in Figure 1.

November has consistently averaged 2.3 percent growth from not only 2004 to 2014, but from 1991 to 2014 (see Figure 2). November 2007 added the highest number of jobs and was the last year of an increase of jobs in the following December. Since 2008, retail jobs in Idaho have fallen in December or remained the same as November (see Figure 3).

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December’s reduction of retail jobs is an Idaho pattern that emerged in 2008 as retailers began putting greater emphasis on sales around Thanksgiving week. Since 2005, the busiest shopping day of the year has been Black Friday – the name given to the shopping day following Thanksgiving day (Source:

Before this time, the busiest day was generally the last Saturday before Christmas. However, with the advent of Gray Thursday – the name of shopping blowouts on Thanksgiving Day as retailers opened their doors on the holiday – some Black Friday transactions have been siphoned off (Source: 2015, IHS Global Insight). As retailers and consumers focus their activity on the week surrounding Thanksgiving day, some of the holiday hiring in December has also been siphoned off.

December’s retail hiring pattern is not only influenced by the shift in concentration of in-store shopping. In 2014, consumers purchased a seasonally adjusted $32.6 billion from electronic shopping and mail-order houses, a 10 percent increase from the previous December (Source: 2015, U.S. Census Bureau). The growth of online shopping also affected retail store hiring, but as those purchases have to get to their destination, transportation and warehousing jobs show a consistent December pattern of hiring (see Figure. 4). Since 2003, transportation companies have ramped up staff in December by an average of 1.9 percent from 2009 to 2014. From 1993 to 2003 there was relatively no change, averaging 0.1 percent job growth from November to December. But from 2004 to 2014 that average has increased to 1.4 percent.

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regional economist supervisor(208) 332-3570 ext. 3201