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Merchants: Seasonal jobs scarce
Prospects dim for those seeking holiday positions
Seasonal Worker 1 es web
Employees, from left, Kathy Byce, Barbara Anderson and Kyle Byce work the counter on a recent afternoon at Parson's Christmas Shoppe. Parson's hired seasonal employees, including Anderson, to work at the store in The Avenue Forsyth. Many companies have already found their seasonal employees, while others are hiring less holiday help. - photo by Emily Saunders

The odds are bleak for anyone hunting seasonal work.

Many companies have already found their seasonal employees. Others are hiring less holiday help, despite a rise in applications.

Ed Holt, store manager at Parsons Gifts & Collectibles, said he brought on 15 to 18 seasonal employees last year. This year, he has added less than a dozen employees and that's with the addition of another location, Parson's Christmas Shoppe.

"Last year, we put signs up for taking applications," he said. "This year, due to the quantity and quality of applications... we didn't have to do that.

"The biggest reason is the economy. We've got good traffic, but they're not buying as many big ticket items, or as much as last year."

Holt said another factor was the calendar. Being a leap year, he said, "Everything falls at a different time."

Thanksgiving comes at the end of November, meaning stocking, hiring and shopping is pushed back a few days.

At Wal-Mart, the situation is about the same as last year, said Russ Hilsher, manager of the Cumming location.

In addition to the 400 associates working at Wal-Mart on Market Place Boulevard, Hilsher said he's added 50 seasonal employees.

"We're anticipating that a lot more of our customers are going to shop with Wal-Mart this year, due to the economic status that we're in right now," he said.

"They're looking for that great price impression that we're offering all of our customers."

Ali Jenkins, manager at Bed Bath & Beyond in Cumming, said his store's strategy is to hire for the long term, not just for a season.

"We hire people with the intent to stay," he said.

Jenkins said he's "seen a lot of applications," but encourages people to continue to apply because "with the economy, things can turn around at any minute."

While hiring cutbacks don't help those seeking extra cash this holiday season, there could be a bright side for shoppers.

John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association, said short-staffed stores may be compensating in other areas.

"You're going to see staffing lower than usual, so people may have to wait a little longer to get their bargains this year," he said. "But we're thinking the prices will make it worth their while."