Employers scramble to staff holiday season

November 18, 1997

Employers scramble to staff holiday season


Staff Writer

The area's low unemployment rate has made it tough for some local retailers to hire temporary workers for the holiday season.

"Because unemployment is down, it's hard to get part-timers all year. We have a hard fight just getting people," said Cathy Vawter, manager of Kmart on Wesel Boulevard.

The county's jobless rate was 4 percent in September compared to 4.7 percent statewide and nationally, according to estimates from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.


Vawter said her store usually hires between 30 and 40 extra people for the holiday season.

"It's whatever we can hire," said Vawter. The small pool of available workers makes hiring a nearly year-round venture, she said.

It's a challenge to find people who like pleasing people and are willing to work nights and weekends, she said.

The store hired between 10 and 12 temporary workers in the past few weeks, Vawter said.

All are trained to work a cash register, though not all will end up in check-out positions, she said.

For almost all of them, it's a second job, Vawter said.

Patrick Cochran, assistant manager of Wal-Mart on Wesel Boulevard, also blamed low unemployment for making it hard to get the extra 65 to 75 temporary workers the store needs this holiday season.

The store started bringing on full- and part-time seasonal workers in late September and is winding up hiring now, he said.

Temporary positions include cashiers, layaway clerks, unloaders and stockers, Cochran said.

Because of the store's historically high turnover rate, the Ames Department Store on U.S. 40 and Cleveland Avenue started building its seasonal work force back in mid-August, said store manager Maria Rodriguez.

"If they don't stay, we just keep hiring until we have everybody we need," said Rodriguez. The store usually hires about 20 temporary workers for the holiday season and is almost done with its seasonal hiring, she said.

Most are cashiers, but there also are a few floor salespeople and stockers, she said.

The job requires a flexible schedule, including nights and weekends, which a lot of people don't like, Rodriguez said.

Because of the flexibility required, not many of Ames' seasonal hires have another job, she said.

Many of the seasonal workers at J.C. Penney in Valley Mall are local high school and college students, but some are older people working a second job, said merchandiser Kathy Diehl, who trains the store's seasonal workers.

The store usually hires between 45 and 50 temporary workers for the holiday season, Diehl said.

Hiring is done by the individual department managers starting at the beginning of October, she said.

With people putting in applications nearly every day, the store doesn't have a problem finding the additional workers, she said.

Katie Trent, 17, a temporary sales associate at J.C. Penney, said she saw the job as a way to earn Christmas money and get a break on her holiday purchases.

"The discount was nice. And I shop here. All my family and friends ... like the stuff that's here," said Trent, a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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