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The labor market is nothing great and the unemployment rate keeps hovering above 8%. Amidst such a scenario, a “We are Hiring” board will bring a lot of cheer for the job seekers. The upcoming holiday season promises exactly that as the retailers usually go on a hiring spree in October to December.

Data compiled by National Retail Federation notes that retailers would employ between 585,000 and 625,000 seasonal workforce in 2012 holiday season compared with roughly 607,500 hired in the prior year. The nation's largest retail trade group also hinted of a 4.1% jump in holiday sales to $586.1 billion, which is short of the 5.6% growth registered last year, but is above the 10-year average sales increment of 3.5%. Online sales for the holiday season are projected to increase 12% to approximately $96 billion, according to Shop.org.

Amidst upcoming political tussle, the sluggish economic condition and a soft job market, the data seems to be encouraging at least in the near term, as it hints at a positive approach by retailers and improving consumer confidence. The Conference Board recently reported that Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 70.3 in September from 61.3 in August.

Thus, we believe retailers will leave no stone unturned to tap this improved trend and will employ strategies including early hours store openings, promotional events, free shipping on online purchases and discounting activities.

Big retail giants such as Macy’s Inc. (M - Analyst Report), Target Corporation (TGT - Analyst Report), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT - Analyst Report), Kohl’s Corporation (KSS - Analyst Report) and Toys “R” Us Inc. have announced their hiring plans for the upcoming holiday season as they expect increasing store traffic, betting on regained consumer confidence buoyed by recovery in the U.S. housing market and the gradual drop in gasoline prices.

Cincinnati-based Macy’s hinted of employing approximately 80,000 seasonal staff for its Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s outlets, call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers, portraying a 2.5% increase from last year, when the retailer appointed about 78,000 associates.

Target plans to employ 80,000 to 90,000 seasonal workforces, less than 92,000 it hired last year. Minneapolis-based general merchandise and food discount operator indicated that it has retained 30% of the temporary staff it appointed last year. Toys “R” Us Inc. plans to increase its seasonal headcounts by 13% to 45,000 this year from 40,000 last year.

Bentonville, Arkansas based Wal-Mart Stores disclosed plans to sign up over 50,000 seasonal workers, as it geared up for the holiday season. Kohl’s indicated that it will recruit over 52,700 personnel, as it prepares itself for the busiest part of the year, implying a growth of 10% from the last year. The department store also expects to appoint 5,700 associates at its distribution centers and 30 seasonal staff for its credit operations.

Though the recruitment drive sounds promising, economic conditions remains weak. The ongoing European crisis, softening economic situation in China and the mounting Middle East tension remain a grim reality and could dent the modest U.S. recovery.

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