Retail Struggles to Fill Low-Skilled Jobs Ahead of the Holidays

As the economy continues to see an increasing number of job openings, retailers are struggling to staff up vacant positions during the crucial holiday period.

In a Monday report, the Labor Department shared that the number of unfilled jobs in the United States rose by 1.02 million at the end of October, compared with the prior year. Openings spiked by 147,000 to 800,000 in retail — a sector rife with entry-level positions, including those on the sales floor as well as clerical work.

With unemployment at its lowest rate in 49 years, Americans might feel more empowered to seek higher-paying positions in other industries. Retailers, who are finding themselves at a disadvantage in their search for candidates, are shifting their hiring strategies by investing in benefits to attract new talent and beginning recruitment over the summer to get a head start on the shopping season. E-tail behemoth Amazon, for instance, announced that it was raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour, while department store chain J.C. Penney is offering paid time off for part-time employees.

By October’s last day, there were a seasonally adjusted 7.08 million job openings — exceeding the number of unemployed people by 1 million. November added 155,000 jobs, while retail gained little with 18,000, as the economy faced widespread worker shortages and subsequent slow hiring. Until March, job openings had never outpaced the number of people seeking work in the 17 years since the start of monthly record-keeping.

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