Retailers deepen benches: JC Penney to hire 35K holiday workers

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After last year's holiday hiring frenzy, retailers are showing more restraint in ramping up their staff for the crucial holiday shopping season.

After a surge in overall holiday hiring last year to a 12-year high, shaky consumer confidence and increased retail efficiency and online shopping may prevent similar gains again, according to a forecast from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Retailers are likely to at best match the level of holiday hiring that occurred last year, the firm added.

"Whether it is related to increased online shopping or the shakiness in consumer confidence, the expectation that there will be fewer people in the stores could prompt some retailers to reduce the number of extra people they will need on the sales floor," said John A. Challenger, the executive outplacement firm's chief executive officer, in a release.

Retail naughty and nice list

Here are the latest hiring plans from retailers:

JC Penney: The struggling retailer said it will hire about 35,000 temporary workers as it prepares for the holiday rush, roughly in line with 2011's hiring levels, before the company did away with most coupons and sales. Last year, the company did not disclose hiring plans when ousted CEO Ron Johnson was at the helm and the retailer decided to forgo its typical holiday sales and instead hold sales only on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. During that holiday quarter, the company's same-store sales plummeted 31.7 percent. Since then, frequent sales have returned. During the company's most recent quarter, CEO Mike Ullman said its top priority "has been to improve traffic and purchase conversion by reconnecting with our customer who frankly had lost faith in us" and that "bringing back promotions was a critical first step."

Target: In addition to offering year-round employees as much as 5 to 10 percent more hours for the holiday season, the company plans to hire 70,000 seasonal workers, down from 88,000 last year. These represent around a 20 percent decrease in seasonal workers as the company configures its holiday plans to meet the needs of the ebbs and flows of the holiday season.

Kohl's: The company plans to decrease the number of seasonal workers it hires per store to 40 associates from 41 and increase the number of positions at distribution centers to 6,400 and credit operations to 350. Overall, Kohl's anticipates hiring about 53,000 associates. This is roughly in line with last year's plans to add more than 52,700 holiday employees and a jump from 2011's forecast of more than 40,000 seasonal workers.

Walmart: The discount giant will hire 55,000 seasonal associates, about 10 percent more than it announced last year, said Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg. It also plans to transition more than 35,000 associates to part time from temporary and another 35,000 associates from part time to full time.

Toys R Us: The toy retailer said it plans to add 45,000 employees to staff its stores and distribution centers. This is roughly on par with its hiring plans last year. Hiring for distribution positions began in July while in-store hiring begins this week.

EBay: To meet the holiday order rush, the online retailer announced 800 job openings at its Eau Claire, Wis., fulfillment center and another 2,000 jobs at its Louisville, Ky., center. They include seasonal and permanent positions.

—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @KatieLittle. Reuters contributed to this report.