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Holiday Shopping Projected to Rise, But Seasonal Hiring Is Flat

In line with one widely watched holiday hiring forecast, Wal-Mart said Thursday that it will hold its seasonal hiring to last year's levels.

Earlier this week, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said it expects retailers to add roughly 755,000 seasonal hires to their payrolls in the final three months of the year. That level would be flat with last year, when holiday hiring fell short of predictions.

This forecast comes despite a strengthening U.S. economy, and an early forecast from Shoppertrak that holiday sales will rise 2.4 percent this year.

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"Once again, most analysts are anticipating healthy holiday sales this year," CEO John Challenger said in a statement. "However, there are several factors that may prevent these strong sales expectations from translating into increased hiring."

Among these, Challenger said, are the fact that retailers hired 449,500 people from March through August — up from 437,000 during the period last year.

"In addition to steady hiring leading up to the holiday season, changes in the way consumers shop are making it possible for stores to meet increased holiday demand with fewer extra workers," Challenger said. "When retailers do add holiday workers, fewer of those jobs are in traditional spots, such as sales clerk or cashier."

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Earlier in September, labor experts warned that a tightening job market could spur a decrease in demand for part-time retail jobs, particularly in companies' warehouses.

Last year, Challenger predicted retailers would hire more than 800,000 seasonal workers from October through December, which would have been the first time they hit this number since 1999. Instead, they ended up adding 755,000 jobs, a decline of 4 percent from 2013. That year, retailers added 786,800 jobs — the greatest amount since 1999's 850,000.

Here is a breakdown of retailers' holiday hiring plans so far:

Wal-Mart: The world's largest retailer said it will once again hire 60,000 holiday workers — the same number as last year — at a starting hourly rate of at least $9. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart raised all of its employees' starting pay to that hourly rate. Of its seasonal jobs, the company said it will add department managers in more than 3,500 stores, adding that it retained more than half of last year's seasonal associates for a permanent role.

Toys R Us: The toy store said that it will hire 40,000 seasonal employees this year, down from 45,000 in 2014. Workers, however, will have the opportunity to log more hours. Whereas last year's holiday hires worked an average seven hours a week, and up to 20 hours during peak times, this year they will average 18 to 20 hours a week, and up to 30 hours during the highest-traffic periods.

Kohl's: The department store chain will hire more than 69,000 seasonal workers, up from the roughly 67,000 it added last year. About 50 new sales associates will work in each of Kohl's 1,000-plus stores, and approximately 9,500 jobs will be listed at distribution centers. There will also be 660 seasonal credit operations positions filled.

Target: The discounter will hire 70,000 workers for the third consecutive year. The positions will include jobs in its stores and its warehouses.

UPS: The world's largest package delivery company said it would add 90,000 to 95,000 seasonal workers this holiday — the same projection it gave in 2014. The shipping company ended up hiring 100,000 people in 2014.

FedEx: FedEx plans to hire 5,000 more seasonal workers this year, for a total of 55,000.