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January Kronos Retail Labor Index – Kind of happy days are here again?

The Kronos Retail Labor Index increased slightly from 3.84 percent in November to 3.85 percent in December.  Holiday season hiring spiked dramatically in November and December to a much larger degree than in recent years, as retailers adopted a just-in-time labor strategy.  According to  Kronos chief economist Dr. Robert Yerex, “the 2010 holiday hiring season confirmed that employers waited until the last minute to hire holiday staff. The combination of a larger pool of available workers and increased use of technology to more effectively manage existing employees is fueling this trend.”

Whether this upward trend is a bellwether of continuing improvement in the US economy is questionable, per this article in the Wall Street Journal. Although December retail sales were up 7.9% from 2009, retailers are concerned that frugal consumers, some amongst the long term unemployed, will remain conservative in their spending outside of the holiday season.  As Robert described in a podcast here earlier this month, high unemployment and tighter credit have led to a “new normal” in the US when it comes to consumer spending as an engine for economic growth.

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