Holiday Hiring Picture Gets a Bit Merrier

By Christopher Leonard and Mae Anderson, AP Business Writers

NEW YORK (AP) β€” The holiday hiring picture looks a bit merrier this year.

Macy's, Toys 'R Us, Pier 1, American Eagle Outfitters and Borders all plan to hire more temporary holiday workers this year than last, emboldened by several months of sales gains and a slowly improving economy.

The jobs probably won't be enough to be a dent in the nation's nearly 10% unemployment rate, but for Americans desperate for some work, they're far more than an early Christmas present.

"I'm trying to do anything at this point," said Nancy Hoagland, who was laid off from her marketing job in May and has been working part-time as a cashier at a golf club near her home in Littleton, Colo., to pay the bills.

On hearing that stores might add more jobs this holiday season, she said she might stop by Kohl's department store on the way home to see if she could fill out an application.

"My husband and I could be facing foreclosure if we don't get (steady employment) secured in the next couple of months. I've never faced anything like that in my life," she said.

Retailers will add between 550,000 and 650,000 jobs this holiday season, according to an updated forecast from the national outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said spokesman James Pedderson. That's significantly more than the 501,400 added last year. But it's still well below the 720,800 added in 2007, just before the recession began.

The holidays are crucial to retailers, accounting for 40% of annual sales in some cases. Retailers have seen modest sales gains in recent months, easing fears of a double-dip recession. Another positive sign: Americans' incomes have risen slightly but steadily this year.

But it's not clear whether those bright spots will offset pessimism among shoppers. Sales are still far below pre-recession levels, and consumer confidence is at its lowest point since February.

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