Worcester Telegram Story: By Shraddha Gupta
WORCESTER – A happy, holiday vibe is spreading around the city of Worcester. Christmas trees, wreaths and glittering lights are ornamenting the streets, announcing the comeback of the most awaited festive season of the year. While residents are busy decorating their houses, finalizing their lists of christmas gifts and winter chores, businesses across industries are hiring seasonal workers to smoothly function throughout this peak business time of the year.
As per reports, a lot of companies nationwide indicated a flat holiday hiring season in 2015, but the number of seasonal job openings locally in Worcester have remained steady.
One of the most traditional winter hiring positions, that of a fundraising ‘bell-ringer’, has already been initiated by The Salvation Army. A fleet of these smiling faces are now opening doors for shoppers around the city, ringing bells outside the stores and collecting holiday donations.
“We have hired 35 seasonal employees in Worcester this year, starting from November 1st to December 24th, 2015. They are helping us raise funds for the homeless, seasonal care, gifts for the elderly care facilities, and other services. We pay $9 per hour for this job, and always look for applicants who are jovial, willing to stand up at the kettle, and talk to people,” said Myron Imbody, Kettle Coordinator at The Salvation Army.
According to Tim Murray, President of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, each year the retail sector in general gets a majority boost during the holidays, and in the summer months, some towns within the area get a lot of tourism footfall. The Wachusett ski mountain is a popular destination for people to visit in the winter, and particularly these are the times when seasonal hiring in and around the city is mostly done.
“The economy has gradually improved this year, and generally the hiring for both permanent and seasonal employees has increased. Although, employers are still hiring cautiously as the growth is slow, and they want to maintain a balance, by not hiring too many people,” he said.
A big seasonal employer year after year is the U.S. Postal Service, which earlier in the month of September, announced its plans to hire approximately 28,000 seasonal employees across United States. Specifically in Massachusetts including the local Worcester area, the agency claimed to have an express need of 250 to 300 seasonal workers, for its peak fall and holiday mailing season. All positions are non-career, with limited benefits and variable work hours and workdays, including holidays and weekends.
Maureen P. Marion, Manager of corporate communications for the USPS, said, “as compared to 2014, where we hired 20,000 seasonal employees, this year we will be hiring a lot more people. This is due to an increase in our seasonal packaging volume, and we need more hands in our warehouses, and to deliver during the peak christmas.”
She also stated, that USPS seasonal employees are mostly hired to work in the plant centers to move around mails, or as letter carriers on routes which are more holiday specific than the regular ones. “Our pay varies by locations, but typically it is in the vicinity of $15 per hour,” she added.
Other competitors in the postal industry, such as UPS, said it would add 90,000 to 95,000 seasonal workers this holiday maintaining the same projection it gave in 2014. FedEx plans to hire 5,000 more seasonal workers this year, for a total of 55,000.
Every year, most opportunities for seasonal employment comes from the retail sector. Gearing up for the attractive low markdowns and festive sales that bring in a lot of footfall into clothing stores, Laurie Wilson, the store manager of GAP, located at The Shoppes at Blackstone Valley, said, “this year we had a very similar seasonal hiring as 2014, employing 4 to 5 seasonal associates. They are scheduled for our 12-15 peak days, who team up with the core team, starting from the Black Friday weekend, to almost all other following Saturdays and Sundays, until the end of December.”
According to Laurie, the seasonal hires in GAP, start their tenure in early November and go through a short training period in order to get familiar with the products. The process to apply is mostly online, and the applicants are majorly college kids, who live around the city and want to earn some extra money. “The pay is anywhere between $9 to $10 per hour depending on previous sales experience,” she said.
Amongst the other retailers that announced holiday hiring to remain same as their last year number, was Macy’s, aiming at 85,000 seasonal workers for its namesake and Bloomingdale’s brands. Target, will close at 70,000 workers for the third consecutive year. Walmart said it will hire 60,000 holiday workers at a starting hourly rate of at least $9. Of its seasonal jobs, the company also claimed to add department managers in more than 3,500 stores, adding that it retained more than half of last year’s seasonal associates for a permanent role.
Claiming increased hiring, Nordstorm said it will hire roughly 11,800 workers this holiday, up about 1,000 from 2014. And, Kohl’s declared to hire more than 69,000 seasonal workers, up from the roughly 67,000 it added last year.
But the real holiday surprise still comes from the online retail giant Amazon, which alone has accounted for 15 percent of the projected holiday hiring figure, sure to add 100,000 seasonal jobs in its domestic fulfillment and sorting centers, an increase of 25 percent from 2014.