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Eight Forty-Eight

Seasonal Help Wanted

Twinkling Christmas trees and bright red bows are already showing up in department stores and shopping malls. Two months of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” can seem like overkill but, there's an upside to the long season, especially if you're job-hunting. As part of our Hard Working series, Adriene Hill has the story.

Tis the season to get a job.

You might be still dealing with Halloween's candy hangover, but already Christmas music fills the air at the Macy's on State Street in Chicago. All over the store—Christmas trees are being put up—lights are being tucked among the branches and the human resources department is thick in the middle of its seasonal hiring spree. Alica Innecken heads up  hiring for Macy's in the Chicago market.

INNECKEN: We typically start hiring at the beginning of October and start to wrap up around the middle of December.

And she's looking for more than sales people—there are lots of support jobs that need to get done.
 
Macy's Andrea Schwartz takes me to 2B, one of the store's three basements. It looks like what it is, like a big industrial basement

SCHWARTZ: 2B is the underbelly but it is exactly what need to get all the merchandise ready to go and easy to ring up. And so that's what you see down here, people unloading, opening boxes. Merchandise going along conveyor belts, being tagged, being sensored.

They hire gift wrappers and mail room staff, tree trimmers, people to restock the shelves, construction workers and electricians to build their great tree, extra servers and cooks for the Walnut Room.
 
Macy's won't reveal how many people they'll hire for the holidays—or what type of applicants they're seeing.
 
Carol Wallack isn't so shy. She's the chef and owner of Sola restaurant, in Chicago's North Center neighborhood, and she has no qualms talking about her seasonal hiring:

WALLACK: I'm seeing everybody interested in the job.

She recently hired a seasonal host—she got 50 resumes for the job in just two days.

WALLACK: So many people are unemployed. So many people are looking for part time work, some extra cash. I've had friends call me that do other things, that are in upper management that are looking for a part time bar tending gig for some extra cash.

Wallack doesn't usually hire for seasonal work, but this year she had to because she didn't have enough staff to get through the hopefully busy holidays without extra help.

All told, John Challenger of the outplacement firm Challenger Gray and Christmas is guessing that, across the country, around 400,000 people will get seasonal jobs this year.

CHALLENGER: It's really super competitive, the jobs are not that plentiful. They are above what we saw last year. But still compared to the years of expansion the hiring is still way down. By comparison, there were more than 700,000 seasonal jobs filled in 2007. Challenger says employers also may hire a little later than they have in seasons' past.

CHALLENGER: It used to be that October was a big month for retail hiring but many companies have now pushed back that hiring until people start to come into the stores, so now November sees much more of that hiring.

Which means there still is a chance Chris Aivazian will get work as Santa Claus.

AIVAZIAN: Ho! Ho! Ho!

Aivazian isn't your typical Santa—he's young, he's not as full figured as you might expect Santa to be, and he's middle eastern.

AIVAZIAN: They actually called me Habibi Claus—which is the middle eastern word for my male darling—I was the middle eastern Santa Claus basically.

He's got a joyful glint in his eye that any good Santa needs and he loves the work.

AIVAZIAN: It's creative, it's fun, it's different, it's a change of pace, kind of injects a little spice into the everyday routine.

Of course, the extra money would be welcome, even though he's got a full time job and landed seasonal work at a department store.

AIVAZIAN: If you get dressed up as Santa and put on a big costume, put on a big Santa stomach suit, it makes everyday more interesting when you do things like that.

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