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November 12th, 2008Holiday jobs in area to be scarcer

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by Jon Chavez

Recession conditions in northwest Ohio has produced a tighter temporary job market this holiday season, with fewer openings, more job seekers vying for the openings that exist, and many of the available positions already filled.

“You have overqualified people looking to take anything just to put food on the table,” said Leigh Guerra, an official with The Source, which is Lucas County’s work force development agency. “We are seeing openings, but I think a lot of people that have regular jobs and have been laid off are taking them just to make ends meet.”

The agency had over 3,000 unemployed workers seeking jobs last month, a figure that is higher than normal. Yet job openings were fewer than normal and fewer employers were seeking workers, Ms. Guerra said.

Package shipper UPS normally expands its work force significantly at this time of year and it was about halfway through with hiring about 130 workers this season for its Maumee operations, said Greg Kelley, work force planning manager for UPS’ Metro Detroit district.

However, last year it hired about 210 seasonal workers in Maumee. This year, it hired fewer drivers and offered seasonal delivery driver slots to existing workers at the Maumee operations. It has hired about half of the 110 driver’s helpers it needs, but Mr. Kelley said the shipping firm is uncertain what its business will be like this season.

Retail experts have predicted that discount retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. will do well this Christmas, given the tight economy.
Target placed Hiring Now notices last month at its stores. Still, a spokesman for the retailer, based in Minneapolis, said the chain cannot say what additional help it will need.

Holiday hiring got off to its slowest start in 17 years in October, with retailers adding just 65,900 jobs. That was the lowest number for October since 1991 when just 62,600 jobs were added, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an employment consulting firm in Chicago.

This October’s hiring was 19 percent lower than in October, 2007, and the overall holiday hiring numbers last year were the lowest since 2001. Last year’s numbers would have been even weaker had there not been a hiring surge in November of 457,000 workers that boosted the overall seasonal hiring.

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