by Aaron Burns

The benefits of companies hiring people for seasonal jobs, which usually run from mid-October to late December, extend beyond getting additional labor, according to local leaders.

They stimulate the local, state and national economy.

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce President Bill Russell said the cyclical effect of creating jobs – allowing more people to earn money – and putting that money back into retail provides a big boost over the holidays.

“Retailers I’ve spoken to are very optimistic. They’re expecting a better year than they’ve had in the past,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get people to shop at the lake (area) as much as possible and to buy local.”

That spending increases the need to hire staff to handle the influx of shoppers.

Seasonal jobs aren’t limited to the retail sector. In fact, they’re not the most promising aspect of this year’s holiday job market.

Amazon.com is hiring 50,000 people this season.

Shipping giant FedEx will hire roughly 20,000 people to handle shipping and office duties over the holidays, FedEx spokesperson Bonny Jay said. Most of the jobs are as package handlers or parcel assistants.

Five hundred of FedEx’s seasonal jobs – split between FedEx Ground and FedEx SmartPost – will be in southern North Carolina, South Carolina and eastern Georgia.

Another 400 jobs will go to other parts of North Carolina and southern Virginia.

“We’re thrilled to hire people who need the work,” Jay said. “We hire based on need, and when there’s more people spending money and buying things, there’s going to be a bigger need for them to ship. So there’s an obvious link.”

If the good news in the shipping businesses is hiring more people for the holidays, the better news is that some of them will still have those jobs when the holiday rush ends.

Jay said FedEx retained roughly one third of its seasonal employees last season and gave them full-time jobs. With the company anticipating 280 million shipments over the holiday season, a 13 percent increase from 2011, more jobs are likely to be on the way.

“Increased consumer spending is good. It shows there’s some strength in the economy,” Jay said. “We’ll hire based on the need we see, just like (other businesses).”

Still, seasonal job projections may not reach expectations.

While the National Retail Federation’s  projections for holiday jobs is on an upswing compared to previous years, Wells Fargo Economist Michael Brown said businesses’ expectations for job openings because of sales may be inflated. There still will be growth, Brown said, but it may not reach previous levels.

The NRF’s predictions may also be higher than what will occur.

“Retailers may be more hesitant to bring on several more temporary workers (this year),” Brown said. The NRF reported a 5.6-percent rise in retail sales in 2011 compared to 2010.

The Consumerist reported in October that Target expects to hire between 2,000-12,000 fewer seasonal jobs this year. That means the retail giant would hire 80,000-90,000 people nationwide until the end of the holiday season. Target.com listed 21 jobs available in North Carolina as of Nov. 20.

Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Public Relations and Research Natalie Dick said any growth in seasonal jobs is good growth for the region.

“Seasonal jobs have been sparse the last several years so it’s reassuring to see retailers feeling confident enough about holiday spending to take on more employees,” Dick said. The more consumers spend, the more money is infused into our local economy.”

2012 holiday hiring facts

• Retailers nationwide will hire an estimated 585,000-625,000 seasonal employees this year (courtesy of National Retail Federation) In 2011, retailers hired 607,000 seasonal employees.

• Holiday sales are expected to increase by 12 percent to as much as $96 billion (courtesy of Shop.org)

• Retail jobs directly or indirectly account for 42 million jobs in the U.S., or one in four jobs (courtesy of National Retail Federation)

• 36 percent of retail businesses plan to add seasonal jobs for the holidays, compared to 29 percent last year (courtesy of CareerBuilder)