Staffing Up for the 2016 Holidays with the Lowest US Unemployment Rate in 10 years

gift-box-498595_640In the months of November and December, perhaps the biggest users of temporary labor are retailers, logistics and shipping companies. To meet the extra consumer demand driven by holiday shopping, they rely on temporary workers to fill a variety of roles in their stores, warehouses or even on delivery vehicles. This year is no exception, as the National Retail Federation predicts U.S. retailers will bring on nearly 700,000 temporary workers this holiday season.

With unemployment rates between 7-10% for much of the last decade, there’s been no shortage of workers to fill these temporary roles during the holiday season. This year is a bit different, as the unemployment rate is under five percent (4.9%) for the first time since early 2008. In addition, the gig economy didn’t exist a decade ago. Now over one million people are choosing flexible work to make extra money by turning on their smart phone, tapping a mobile app, and driving passengers, food or packages in their cars. While a low unemployment rate and access to flexible work is great for the working population, it means fewer people are available to take on that seasonal retail and e-commerce work.

What does this mean for retailers, logistics and shipping companies trying to staff up for the holiday season? It’s important to understand the needs and choices of today’s workforce.

They don’t actually want a job. Today’s workforce has fully embraced the gig economy and are looking for shifts, not jobs. Many of the seasonal workers you’ll see in stores and warehouses this winter aren’t simply out of work, hoping for their temp gig to turn into full-time employment. In fact, most already have a primary “occupation.” They’re students, caregivers, part-time workers, moms … but have the capacity to pick up shifts where they fit with their schedule. Many are working 30 hours at one company but would be happy to work additional hours. Taking part in the gig economy provides an opportunity earn money quickly without committing to long-term employment, and holiday shifts are a great example of this.

They aren’t looking for you. A sign in the window and a press release isn’t enough to fill all your open seasonal shifts effectively. Gig workers are connecting in sophisticated ways with their employers of choice, often using technology platforms to match them to available shifts. If retailers want access to a high-quality, targeted labor force, they need to connect with staffing providers that have those relationships. The bonus? They’re already vetted, skills-assessed and background-checked, taking the burden off your already busy HR team

They can pitch in quickly. Workers that are shift-based tend to have an easier time assimilating into a day’s work than a typical temporary worker who holds the same 40-hour-a-week job for weeks or months at a time. They are customer service driven, task-oriented, and understand the importance of being a productive part of a team. Because they’ve worked for many different companies, they come armed with a breadth of experience and aren’t intimidated by something new or different.

Contingent labor is changing. For some companies, they most often take the form of longer-term consultants and contractors. For others, on-demand workers are making their way into the mix. Today’s low unemployment rate means that retailers will need to expand their search for labor this Christmas season, and on-demand workers just might be the perfect match.

Eddie Lou
Eddie Lou is the CEO of Shiftgig, an on-demand labor marketplace that connects businesses and hourly workers through the Shiftgig mobile application.

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