Hiring by retailers for the holiday shopping season is at its slowest pace since 2010.
Is it bad news? Consumer spending at the mall is lackluster.
Is it good news? The job market’s so hot, merchants can’t find enough help.
I loaded my trusty spreadsheet with fresh jobs data to see how local merchants were staffing up for the holiday rush. Historically since 2000, retail employment in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties grows on average by 35,600 jobs between August and November. In the rest of the year, store staffing is trimmed by 30,800.
This year, merchants hired 32,200 workers between August and November — the slowest in eight years — down 5,000 positions or 13.4 percent vs. 2017’s prime hiring period. It’s also down 9.5 percent vs. the 2000-2017 average.
Brick-and-mortar retailing, as traditionally defined, isn’t a growth business thanks to online shopping which has made it too easy to shop at home. The 786,700 retail workers employed regionally as of November is off 3,400 positions in 12 months.
But a shortage of unemployed workers — a 4.1 percent jobless rate for the four counties down from a 6.7 percent five-year average — makes it tough for bosses in all industries to stay fully staffed.
Here’s retail job patterns at the county level, looking at August-to-November hirings as well as November’s employment level …
Los Angeles County: 15,700 hired since August, down 2,300 positions in a year — a 12.8 percent drop and 15.7 percent lower than the 17-year average. November’s 436,100 workers was down 1,900 or 0.4 percent in a year.
Orange County: 6,700 hired since August, down 600 positions in a year or 8.2 percent dip and 1 percent below average. November’s 157,900 worker pool was off 1,900 or 1.2 percent in a year.
Inland Empire: 9,800 hired since August, down 2,100 positions in a year or a 17.6 percent decline and 3.6 percent below average. November’s 192,700 workers was up 400 or 0.2 percent in a year.
Depressed hiring at local shopping centers may not be a sign of economic malaise. Yes, the regional business climate has cooled somewhat in 2018. Yet slow hiring by merchants may be partly a response to changing consumer preferences in addition to a tight labor market.
Still, any spending slippage causing the hiring slowdown is bad news for store owners and mall operators — who are scrambling to refine their sales tactics — as well as local municipalities — which count on local sales taxes to fund government operations.
James Reyes, a Brand Rep at Hollister, stands in front of the store to welcome shoppers. Black Friday shoppers hit the Glendale Galleria looking for deals. Glendale, CA 11/24/2017 (Photo by John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Target plans to hire 100 workers for a new small-format store that will open in La Canada Flintridge in October. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
SoundThe gallery will resume insecondsEmployee Jacqueline Myers stocks Hot Wheels cars during Black Friday at Toys R Us at the Puente Hills Mall in Industry, on Friday , Nov. 24, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, San Gabriel Valley Tribune/SCNG)
Early morning shoppers take advantage of Black Friday bargains on Nov. 23, 2018, at the Glendale Galleria. Several stores had opened on Thanksgiving Day. Ronald Sanchez directs traffic as shoppers leave the mall. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Shoppers line up for bargains outside Target in Torrance on Friday, Nov. 23. Lines were longer on Thursday when the store opened at 5 p.m. with roughly 200 people outside. (Photo by David Rosenfeld)
Giselle Castro, a Walmart employee, straightens up shelves in the toy isle in advance of the Black Friday sales at Walmart in Burbank, CA on November 20, 2018. (Photo by John McCoy, Contributing Photographer)
Shoppers look for special Black Friday deals at Toys R Us at the Puente Hills Mall in Industry, on Friday , Nov. 24, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, San Gabriel Valley Tribune/SCNG)
A employee cleans up a Kmart store after Black Friday in 2015.
Early morning shoppers take advantage of Black Friday bargains on Nov. 23, 2018, at the Glendale Galleria. Several stores had opened on Thanksgiving Day. Similan Sattaratanakul, 23, greets shoppers at Bath and Body Works. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)
Best Buy cashiers prepare for Black Friday at The Market Place in Tustin in 2016. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Workers do some last minute repairs on an entrance door to a Trader Joe’s market in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. The grocery store where a manager was accidentally killed by police during a gun battle with a suspect has reopened The Trader Joe’s market in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood opened its doors Thursday with a sign telling customers, “We missed you.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Construction workers place flowers from the store in front of the Trader Joe’s, Silver Lake on Sunday morning, July 22, 2018 while investigations continue into Saturday’s deadly shooting . (Photo by Dan Watson)
FILE- In this Nov. 9, 2017, file photo, a Walmart employee scans items while conducting an exercise during a Walmart Academy class session at the store in North Bergen, N.J. Walmart is offering its employees a new perk: affordable access to a college degree. America’s largest private employer, which in the past has helped its workers get their high school or equivalency degree, hopes the new benefit will help it recruit and retain higher quality entry-level employees in a tight U.S. labor market. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Kohl’s is among the many retailers looking to hire temporary workers for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Kohl’s needs to fill some 90,000 spots at 1,100 stores nine distribution centers, five e-commerce fulfillment centers and credit centers nationwide. The company wouldn’t say how many it would need at Inland Empire stores. (File photo: SCNG)
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