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Holiday season has never been friendlier to job seekers

Krystal Hu

The holidays have never been this friendly to job seekers.

This year there will be at least 704,000 job openings for the holidays — the most in six years —according to a tally tracking 31 companies in retail, goods and shipping by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm.

With the unemployment rate hitting a 48-year low in September, the race to lure seasonal workers is on. Companies are raising wages and offering better benefits to win over job candidates.

The holiday shopping season is approaching as retailers speed up hiring. ( Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Amazon (AMZN), for example, raised the minimum wage for hourly workers to $15. The move attracted more than 70,000 applicants in two days following its announcement in early October. On Wednesday, the e-commerce giant said it would be hiring 100,000 workers for the holidays, the first year since 2012 that it lowered its hiring rate for the holidays. The company said it was focusing on full-time workers.

U.S. shoppers are expected to spend $119.99 billion online during the upcoming holiday shopping season, a 15.5% jump from last year, according to Internet Retailer Research. Target (TGT), anticipating a rising demand from online orders and pickup services during the holiday, set a goal to hire 120,000 workers, up 20% from last year. Temporary holiday workers at Target start with an hourly wage of $12. They also enjoy benefits including a 10% discount on Target.com and 20% off certain products.

Here are how many workers companies are hiring for the holiday season (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Macy’s (M) created 5,500 more positions in its fulfillment facilities than last year, and assigned seasonal workers to fulfill online and pick-up-in-store orders, which it says will be “a great draw for our customers.” The department store plans to hire 80,000 employees for the holidays this year, the same as its initial target last year. In 2017, Macy’s ended up adding an additional 7,000 jobs because of an influx of Christmas shoppers.

Companies also try to simplify the interview process to attract applicants. Amazon doesn’t require a resumé for some positions and applicants only need to answer a few basic questions when they apply online. Large-scale hiring events are also happening on the store floors, making it easier for job seekers to stop by. On Thursday, Macy’s hosted an all-day hiring event in stores to conduct interviews and extend job offers on-the-spot. Another department chain, J.C. Penny, made the same move on Tuesday in an effort to fill its 39,000 holiday openings. 

Some retailers decided to start looking for new hires early. Kohl’s kicked off its holiday hiring in July, but hasn’t disclosed its headcount target. “We are hiring seasonal associates earlier than ever to ensure our teams are fully staffed, trained and ready to support peak shopping seasons,” Ryan Festerling, Kohl’s head of human resources, said in a statement.

Shipping companies like FedEx and UPS are also ramping up hiring this year. UPS (UPS) expects to add 95,000 people to drive, handle packages for the shopping season. “If you are a student, a working mom or just looking to make extra money for the holidays, we have a job for you,” UPS CEO David Abney said in a statement.

To some employers, the cost to find holiday workers is so high that they are looking for other alternatives. Since 2016, Walmart started to extend the hours of current associates rather than hiring thousands of seasonal workers. This year, FedEx is also increasing hours for some existing employees.

“Right now, the job market is so tight, job seekers are leaving offers on the table. Companies are struggling to find qualified workers,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “If employers fail to offer perks that resonate with the talent it seeks to attract, workers will look elsewhere.”

Krystal Hu covers e-commerce for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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