PhotoWe'll have to wait a while to see how busy the Christmas shopping season was this year. But if the number of people hired in the retail industry is any guide, it should be a good one

Retailers added 465,500 seasonal workers in November -- the most ever added during what is typically the busiest hiring month of the holiday hiring season, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics  (BLS) by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The net gain in retail employment achieved last month barely surpassed the previous record set in 2007, when retail payrolls grew by 465,400 workers during the month of November.

November job gains were up 21 percent from the 383,700 seasonal workers hired by retailers a year ago. Furthermore, October job gains in the retail sector were adjusted upward to 145,200 from an originally-reported figure of 130,100.

Retail employment on the move

Retail employment has grown by a total of 610,700 in October and November -- up 19 percent from 512,600 in the same two-month period a year ago. And it's just shy of the 660,200 seasonal workers added during the entire three-month holiday hiring period last year.

“Despite all of the uncertainty, all the talk of fiscal cliffs, the widespread damage to retail epicenters on the east coast by Hurricane Sandy, and the continued growth of e-commerce, retailers are hiring holiday workers in record numbers,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“An early Thanksgiving and the fact that many retailers started the traditional Black Friday sales on Thursday may have contributed to strong early holiday sales and the need for additional workers. Of course, more people working this holiday season could result in further retail sales gains as more Americans have more spending money in their pockets for gifts,” he added.

Last year, retail employment increased by 147,600 in December. Even if retailers simply match that level of hiring activity, seasonal hiring this year could reach nearly 760,000. If that occurs, it would the strongest retail holiday hiring season since 2000, when 788,100 seasonal workers were added to retail payrolls.    

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