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Archive for Sunday, November 16, 2008

Holiday job options differ by region

Applications increase nationwide, but not necessarily in city

November 16, 2008

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The holiday season is normally a boon to people looking for part-time, temporary jobs.

Those jobs are scarce in some parts of the country because of the deteriorating national economy and the downturn in retail sales.

The situation is mixed in Lawrence. Some businesses contacted by the Journal-World are hiring seasonal part-time workers, and some are generally looking for part-timers year-round.

Businesses and retail outlets in some parts of the country were getting more applicants and inquiries about seasonal jobs than in past years. That's not necessarily so in Lawrence.

"We're not seeing any more than usual," Lisa Bakke, manager of Borders Books, Music, Movies and Cafe, 700 N.H., said of job applicants.

Borders hires seasonal workers this time of year, but Bakke declined to say how many.

Mark Swanson, owner of Hobbs store, 700 Mass., doesn't have seasonal jobs.

"What we've got is what we've got," he said.

Swanson also said he hasn't noticed an increase in people seeking part-time work.

"We have a few every week all the time, but I haven't noticed a giant bang," he said.

Cheryl Wetherington, owner of Riverfront Ricetta Chocolates, 1 Riverfront Plaza, said she usually hires two to four seasonal helpers this time of year. None has been hired yet, but she expected to hire around the first of December.

"We're hoping to see what the economy is going to do," she said. "Because of the nature of our business, we like to have some familiarity with the products before we start getting busy."

Wetherington said she has had people asking about part-time jobs but not necessarily seasonal.

Eric Walter is selective about hiring seasonal workers at his Strawberry Hill Christmas Tree Farm, 794 U.S. Highway 40 west of Lawrence. He hires about 15 workers this time of year. He favors Eagle Scouts and "good kids who know other good kids," Walter said. They help customers enjoy their visit to pick out trees, he said.

"I used to think I just sold Christmas trees, but what I'm really doing is providing a family experience for customers," Walters said.

National chain department stores in Lawrence contacted either didn't comment or referred questions to their corporate headquarters.

Elsewhere the seasonal job market is bleak. From department stores and convenience stores to call centers, managers who only a year ago had to scramble to fill holiday jobs are seeing a surge in the number of seasonal applicants - many of them laid off in other sectors and desperate for a way to pay the bills.

At UPS Inc., which is just starting to ramp up its holiday hiring, as much as 30 percent of the seasonal hires in the Northeast are coming from the ranks of the recently laid off, said spokeswoman Ronna Charles Branch. In the past, she said, applicants for holiday jobs at the world's largest shipping carrier were largely students.

Since the financial meltdown intensified in October, leading to layoffs across several industries, a growing number of unemployed have been turning to lower-paying jobs in the retail sector.

- The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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