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Holiday Retail Hiring Seen Minimal, Challenger Says

Retailers will likely hire fewer workers for this holiday season than they have since 2001 as many worry that consumers will spend less on holiday shopping, an outplacement firm said Monday.

Retailers are expected to add a minimal number of seasonal employees for the key holiday selling season, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in its annual holiday hiring forecast.

The firm did not say specifically how many jobs it expected to be added for the holiday season, but retailers added some 721,200 seasonal jobs in 2006, up 1.4 percent from 2005, Challenger said. But holiday sales grew only 4.4 percent last year, down from original forecasts of 5 percent when retailers were hiring.

"Last year's lackluster performance could cause employers to cut back on holiday hiring this year," John Challenger, chief executive of the outplacement firm, said in a news release. "Additionally, the overall economy appears to be struggling more this year."

The U.S. housing market meltdown, rising prices for food and oil and concerns over job security have led some analysts to predict that the U.S. economy could fall into a recession.

"While we are not even close to the level of economic weakness experienced after September 11, (2001) the sudden surge in job cuts resulting from the housing slump is undoubtedly creating concern among retailers," Challenger said.

"The big fear is that even consumers who have not been directly impacted by the housing situation could decide to cut back on spending as confidence over the economy's overall strength slips."