Searches for seasonal jobs are up 33%—but stores like Walmart and Macy's are pulling back on hiring

Wal-Mart Prepares For Black Friday Shopping Rush
Getty | Joe Raedle / Staff

As the winter holiday season heats up, the seasonal job market appears to be reflecting the regular job market's current tension, with too many people applying to too few open positions.

Searches for seasonal jobs jumped 33% in September compared the previous year, according to an Indeed study published earlier this month. But employer demand for seasonal workers dropped 8.2% in the same time period, meaning more workers could be competing for fewer roles.

"That's going to impact the bargaining power that workers have this holiday season," Cory Stahle, an economist at Indeed's Hiring Lab, tells CNBC Make It.

Despite fewer job postings this year compared to 2021, Indeed still found more seasonal job listings than in 2019 and 2020. Since many seasonal positions are in-person jobs, 2021 could have seen employers overcompensating to catch up from cuts during the 2020 holiday season, Stahle says.

Walmart and Macy's are among several major retailers that have announced major cuts to their seasonal hiring target numbers. In September, Walmart announced it would hire 40,000 employees ahead of the holiday season — a fraction of the 150,000 target it set for seasonal associates 2021. 

Also in September, Macy's announced it would hire more than 41,000 seasonal workers, compared to the 48,000 seasonal positions it planned for in 2021.

Target, on the other hand, will aim for the same number — 100,000 seasonal hires — as last year.

"There's still plenty of opportunity out there," says Stahle. "But there is much less opportunity than there was last year."

Employers also don't appear to be as urgent to hire seasonal help. The share of job postings that mention urgent need dropped from 10% in 2021 to 6% in 2022, Indeed found. Employers have pulled back on incentives like signing bonuses as well, spelling more bad news for job seekers. 

Increasing wages is, unsurprisingly, the top priority for people seeking seasonal work, according to a survey released earlier this month from staffing agency PeopleReady. "Seasonal work does reflect the broader economy and kind of broader human desire to feel taken care of by an employer," Stahle says.

Despite high living costs and recession fears, people haven't started seeking additional work in significant numbers. The share of workers holding multiple jobs remains below pre-pandemic levels, the most recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data shows.

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