Survey: Cautionary outlook for retail holiday hiring

Chicago A survey released Thursday by human capital consulting firm Aon Consulting found that 44% of retailers are hiring fewer holiday workers this year than last.

A survey of more than 100 leading retailers also found that 37% are hiring the same number of workers as they did during the 2008 holiday season. Conversely, 19% plan to hire more workers for the holidays this year compared to last year.

"While the economy is showing some signs of recovery, key indicators, such as the unemployment rate, give retailers good reason to proceed with caution," said Bob Lopes, executive VP, Aon Consulting. "That said, there are a number of jobs available for those who can demonstrate the right skills and are willing to work the hours needed."

The most important qualities retailers are looking for in candidates this holiday season include customer-service skills (83%), a positive attitude (60%) and availability (55%), according to the survey.

Meanwhile, retailers say the best candidates come from employee referrals (70%), followed by walk-ins (57%).

The survey also revealed that 77% of retailers are hiring a greater percentage of part-time employees this holiday season compared to last. In addition, 43% say they are planning to convert the same number of part-time seasonal employees to full-time status after the holidays as they did last year, while 42% said they will move fewer part-time seasonal workers to full-time status after the 2009 holiday season.

"According to our survey results, there are a number of qualified candidates who will not find a retail job during this holiday season," said Lopes. "Those individuals should also consider the travel, hospitality and food service industries. While these industries don't receive the same type of attention as retail during the holiday season, they typically increase their hiring this time of year."