Clovis News

Valley expects uptick in holiday hiring

The temporary jobs beginning to open up for the holiday season will be welcome opportunities for many of the Valley's unemployed -- but just how many positions will be offered here remains to be seen.

Experts are predicting an increase in the number of positions folding clothes and stocking shelves during the holidays.

The Valley will share in that boost, but likely won't have as many jobs as cities with economies that are rebounding more quickly, they say.

Companies like Target, New York & Company and specialty mall retailer Silkroad Gallery are posting job listings online for seasonal help in Fresno and Clovis.

Nationally, three months of climbing sales led Chicago-based outplacement and consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to predict increased hiring in its annual holiday hiring forecast.

Retailers are cautious, however, and hiring levels will not reach levels seen in the pre-recession boom years of 2006 and 2007, the forecast said.

In the Valley, signs are pointing to a better holiday season this year than last.

Fresno-area companies that manufacture holiday-related items or distribute them are hiring more people than last year, said Kathy Bray, president of staffing company Denham Resources.

Fashion Fair mall has had enough retailers request help in finding qualified workers that the mall will be holding a job fair Friday.

And at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis, more stores are open than last year, and the new Kohl's is bringing increased foot traffic to the mall.

That has marketing director Geanie Silva anticipating a good season.

"We've leased just about everything we can for this holiday season, including all carts and kiosks," she said.

"That's a vast improvement from last year."

Still, retailers offer jobs based on how strong they think sales will be at their local store, and they will take Fresno County's 15.2% unemployment rate into account, said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"No question that each store is going to look at what it did last year and look at how their sales have been recently, and try to make some judgements there," he said.

Bray said the Valley is just now starting to turn around economically.

Because retailers are skittish, they may stretch out the hiring period, Challenger said.

Rather than hire too many workers, they may interview job candidates in coming days, but not hire them until they're sure they're needed weeks from now, he said.

Although plenty of people are unemployed, a couple of retail executives said they're having a hard time finding qualified job candidates.

Some retailers are getting applicants, just not the kind they want.

Silkroad Gallery, which sells anime films, swords, knives and Asian-themed home decor, is hiring for two or possibly three temporary positions paying $8 or $9 an hour at its Fashion Fair mall store.

Owner Xu "Roland" Liu said he's getting plenty of applicants who dress poorly, are covered in tattoos and piercings and are rude when they inquire about jobs.

"We're in retail. We cannot scare the customers," he said. "A lot of people ... I don't think they're ready to work."

Don Roberto Jewelers in Sierra Vista plans to hire one part-time worker at about $12 for the holidays, said manager Juan Ayala.

He's been accepting about three résumés each week and said that he isn't sure why more aren't coming in.

One problem retailers may be facing are unemployed people who earn more on unemployment than retail jobs pay.

New unemployment claims top out at $450 a week -- the equivalent of $11.25 an hour.

Laid-off middle managers who may now be in a position to shift down to retail jobs may not do so because they can earn more on unemployment, said Cathy Frost, president of staffing agency Bennett Frost.

"A lot of the really qualified people are not applying," she said.

"I think a lot of people are collecting unemployment rather than applying for these jobs."

Both Frost and Bray agree that unemployed people will benefit more in the long run if they have something to put on their résumé.

"You are always better off being out there working," she said.