Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tis the Season for Retail Hiring? Not necessarily. . .

Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

In Utah (and nationally), retail trade employment increases dramatically in the months between September and December every year. Obviously, this seasonal surge in employment relates directly to expanding retail spending during the holidays. However, in central Utah (Millard, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier and Wayne counties), the trend is far less obvious or nonexistent.

Statewide, retail trade employment typically increases by 6,000 to 9,000 jobs in a nonrecessionary year. The accompanying 5-6 percent increase in employment in the final quarter of each year appears quite significant. However, in central Utah, seasonal hiring in retail trade doesn’t necessarily follow the holiday spending season.

For a majority of central Utah counties, summer marks the high point of seasonal retail trade employment. Millard, Piute and Wayne counties definitely fall into this category. Because of its reliance on tourism, Wayne County’s seasonal pattern of retail trade employment plays counterpoint to the Utah figures. Retail trade employment in Wayne County typically reaches its high point during the summer months rather than in November or December.

Prior to the last recession, Sanpete and Sevier counties showed a pattern of seasonal hiring in retail trade similar to the state—highest at the end of the year; lowest at the beginning of the year. However, that pattern has become less clear in the post-recession time period.

In 2012, only Millard and Sevier County added any jobs between September and December. Moreover, these additions proved small—reflecting gains of roughly 1 percent. The remaining counties actually showed retail trade employment declines between September and December 2012.