After a record-breaking hiring spree in October, the industry could add as many as 800,000 jobs during the last three months of 2014, the firm estimated. The last time that happened was 1999.
Unfortunately, weak Black Friday sales, coupled with other factors such as a big shift to online shopping, led to a slowdown in hiring in November and December, with employers adding 23,000 fewer workers than during the same two-month period a year earlier, Challenger said.
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All told, retail employment rose by 603,200 in November and December, down 4 percent from the 626,200 workers added during the same period in 2013, according to the firm's analysis of non-seasonally adjusted government employment data.
Overall, holiday hiring during the final three months of last year resulted in 785,200 workers' being added to retail payrolls, which was 1,000 fewer than 2013's 786,200.
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"The Bureau of Labor Statistics data will be adjusted over the next couple of months, so the final tally may end up exceeding last year's total. Even if that occurs, though, hiring definitely fell short of the expectations based on the strong hiring numbers we saw in October," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.