NEW YORK (AP) -- The prospects of finding a part-time job in retailing for the winter holidays are looking a lot rosier than last year, according to a survey of 14 major store chains.
Thirty-six percent of retailers polled said they plan to hire more seasonal workers than last year as they turn more bullish about holiday sales, according to the Hay Group, a consulting firm that polled a variety of merchants including Chico's Fas and Ann Inc., which operates stores under AnnTaylor and Loft. That compares with 10 percent for the 2011 holiday period.
About 7 percent said they plan to hire fewer workers for the most important shopping season of the year; last year, that figure was 24 percent.
Fifty-seven percent of retailers polled said they planned to hire the same number as last year, compared with 67 percent a year ago
Those taking part in the survey, which wrapped up just after Labor Day, were retailers with annual sales of $1 billion to $20 billion. The results offer some encouraging news for the holiday winter season, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of retailers' annual revenue.
Craig Rowley, vice president and global practice leader for the Hay Group, said he was "pleasantly surprised" by the results given the lingering economic challenges. But he said after more than four years of economic turbulence, stores are learning to maneuver through these challenges.
"Both consumers and retailers have figured out how to manage their money," he said. Shoppers have learned where to shop for the best deals and are also spending a little more money on themselves, while retailers have sharpened their skills in offering the best prices, he said.
Rowley noted that Hay's results also offered another piece of encouraging news for the economy. The survey found that merchants are looking to increase their focus on permanent workers. Forty-three percent say they will have more permanent workers and fewer seasonal employees this year. That means that they want to retain more workers beyond the holiday season.
According to the survey, seventy-five percent expect holiday sales gains, compared with 68 percent a year ago. Most of those expecting gains predict sales increases of up to 5 percent.
Stores typically begin to hire for the holidays in mid-September and ramp up hiring in mid-October.
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