Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tis the Season for Retail Hiring? Yes and No. . .

Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

In Utah (and the U.S.), when the holiday season rolls around, so does a dramatic increase in retail trade employment. Obviously, this increase in retail employment relates directly to the increase in retail spending engendered by the season. While the two largest counties in southwestern Utah follow the statewide trend to some degree, the rest do not.

 In a typical nonrecession year, Utah’s retail trade employment increases 5 to 6 percent between September and December. February almost always marks the low point for retail employment while December marks the highest employment level.

In Washington County, seasonal retail trade hiring has varied dramatically over the past decade. In 2003, September to December retail trade employment increased by a whopping 7 percent. However, remember that some of this gain may be related to business cycle increases as well as seasonal changes. During the past three years (2010 through 2011), the September-to-December increase in retail employment has ranged between 3 and 4 percent—an increase of roughly 200 to 300 positions.

Iron County follows the characteristic seasonal trend with its highest retail employment generally occurring in November or December. However, the gains tend to be smaller than in metropolitan areas. The county’s slow recovery from the recession shows up in its most recent retail trade employment data. In 2010, retain jobs actually declined slightly between September and December. Moreover, in 2011 and 2012, retail gains measured less than 1 percent (and fewer than 20 jobs).

In the remaining three counties (Beaver, Garfield and Kane), tourism drives seasonality in retail trade employment. While the low point in employment happens early in the year (following the Utah trend), the employment apex occurs during the summer months when tourism is also at its peak.