Even though Americans are expected to be doing a lot more holiday shopping this year, don't expect that to do much to alleviate the pain of a struggling jobs market.
That's because while sales are predicted to rise in November and December, and back-to-school sales in August -- often seen as a leading indicator for the holiday performance -- have been relatively healthy, many retail chains plan to take on the same number of seasonal employees as they did last year, despite business being projected to be better, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Some stores plan to simply give more hours to the staff they already have, rather than hire new employees to help with the holiday workload.
Last year, holiday hiring was responsible for the creation of about 600,000 temporary jobs, according to one estimate -- the highest number since 2008. As many as 40 percent of the employers who hire part-time seasonal workers eventually move some of them onto their full-time payrolls, a 2010 survey found.
That lack of expected holiday hiring is bad news for a U.S. workforce that gained no new jobs in August, stoking fears that the economy's modest upward trajectory since the official end of the Great Recession has plateaued, and that stagnation, or even a second phase of recession, lies ahead.
Economists have repeatedly warned that for a true recovery to take hold, the economy must be growing and adding jobs at a much more rapid rate than it currently is.
Though the economy needs jobs -- there are currently 14 million Americans looking for work, and another 8.8 million working part-time who'd like to be working full-time -- it's unclear at this point where those jobs will come from. The disappointing outlook for retail-chain hiring echoes a handful of surveys released earlier this summer, which showed that few small businesses plan to expand their payrolls for the remainder of 2011.
President Obama is set to unveil a major jobs plan before a joint session of Congress on Thursday, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has indicated that he will lay out a jobs plan of his own in a speech on Tuesday. Earlier this week, the Chamber of Commerce published a series of recommendations for expanding the workforce, including increased oil drilling, more ambitious infrastructure work and fewer regulations for a number of industries.