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November 08, 1999
Where are Santa's Helpers?
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iday season woes in tight labor market

DALLAS --- The holiday rush is already on -- not for shoppers -- but for retailers seeking seasonal help. So much to sell -- so few of Santa's helpers available to sell it.

"It used to be that stores, with a minimum of help wanted advertising, could depend on the usual November influx of eager students, retirees and other part-timers," said Tim Loncharich, Chairman and President of Dallas-based Snelling Personnel Services. But in the tightest job market in 29 years, with the nation's unemployment rate down to 4.2 percent, department stores and other merchants can no longer depend on "usual" sources for temporary Christmas help.

"The shortage of seasonal temporary workers will not only be felt on the sales floors of stores during the Christmas rush but throughout the retail distribution and delivery system," said Loncharich. "The result may be frustrating for shoppers waiting on longer than usual lines for sales help. It could be frustrating too for retailers who could lose sales in the crucial Christmas season," he added.

"This problem is compounded by the stepped-up demand by companies for temporary workers for a wide variety of assignments, fueled by the scarcity of qualified full-time workers. Temporary workers now make up 2.2 percent of the total U.S. workforce, more than four times the number of temporary workers who were employed in the early 1980's," Loncharich said.

What to do about it:

Loncharich advises retailers to line up holiday help now.

If you are hiring temporary people directly you need to pull out the stops. Get on campus, put up signs in well trafficked places. Contact past workers and retirees, try referrals, bonuses, contests - anything you can do to get noticed will help you.

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