Many Americans try to earn a little extra cash during the holidays by taking on a part-time seasonal job. Problem is, the sluggish economy is taking a toll on companies nationwide and seasonal work may be harder to find this year.

Many retailers are expecting to offer fewer jobs this year. Maine-based L.L. Bean expects to hire 23% fewer positions than last year. And national numbers released last month by Manpower (MAN) - Get Report indicate that 72% of employers surveyed are either cutting jobs as they head into the holidays or keeping their payrolls unchanged.

If you are hoping to take on a second job this holiday season, here are a few tips to help you with your search.

Start Looking Now!

In previous years you could afford to wait until the start of November to begin your seasonal job search. But with fewer spots available this year, most existing positions are likely to be filled by then. If you live in an area with a strong seasonal job market -- such as a retail center or a tourist destination with restaurants and seasonal attractions -- then you probably have a good idea of which businesses tend to hire this time of year. Alternatively, you can walk through the local mall or down Main Street and check in with stores that are advertising for help.

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If you don't live close to prospective seasonal employers, check out online resources like and and search under seasonal and part time job categories. Also check with local town and county resources. Many town halls have a location for local employers who don't want to pay to post available positions on national Web sites.

Be Prepared

Make sure you have the time and the information required to correctly fill out applications -- including knowing your schedule of available work hours beforehand. And if a stroll in the mall might lead to a few applications, consider carrying around a few copies of your resume just in case.

When taking a more targeted approach to seasonal job applications, do a little background research on the company before inquiring about available positions. You'll have an advantage over other applicants if you know ahead of time what kind of image or lifestyle a particular company is trying to project -- such as eco-friendly, hipster or outdoorsy. You'll be better prepared to sell yourself as a prospective employee while at the same time impressing them by making that extra effort.

Be Flexible

As with many part-time jobs, most employers are looking for seasonal hires to fill less-desirable shifts and to bolster full-time staff during peak hours. That means expecting to work evenings, weekends and even holidays if you are looking for retail work.

For non-retail jobs, such as with packing-and-shipping companies, many employers are looking to fill off-hour shifts during the late night or early morning. These shifts are created during peak holiday shopping season to handle the higher volume of orders, and often pay better than regular-hour shifts. But consider how this type of job would impact your full-time work schedule: There's no sense in taking on part-time work if it ends up putting your day job in jeopardy.

Consider the Perks

Seasonal positions are often aimed at padding your wallet with some extra spending money. Many stores offer employee discounts in addition to an hourly wage. If you tend to do a lot of shopping at a particular store, consider starting your search there. After all, not only will you already be familiar with the products, but you can save a little extra on your holiday shopping as well.