This represents a drop from the previous month’s 7.6 tally.
Admittedly, much of the gain comes on the strength of seasonal hiring; that is, part-time Christmas workers who have been added to retail floors, and to some degree additions to existing industries whose business volume peaks during the holidays. The Amazon fulfillment center near Charleston immediately comes to mind.
Bradley County’s hiring increase has come predominately in retail trade where store managers opened the gates to part-time workers for November and December. It is expected the December jobless numbers locally will stabilize, and then into January they will increase.
Naysayers will scoff at temporary jobs, saying they will help the economy for a couple of months and then as mid-winter approaches these laid-off workers will be back in the barrel of joblessness.
In some cases, this will happen. It’s the very definition of seasonal hiring. Truly, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development will be watching to see what happens with the January and February rates.
With November coming in at 6.8 percent, it is expected the December figure will stay about the same. Additional hiring could drop the number a little more, but past trends show the month of the Yuletide shows a leveling off of available seasonal work.
The question in most minds is always, “How much will it go back up in January and February, and will construction pitch in to balance the scales with the coming of the spring thaw?”
We will not look for reasons to seek out the negative in the goods news of a falling jobless rate. Truly, Christmas season hiring helps the local economy, and the anticipated January layoffs aren’t always as bad as some perceive.
At the risk of being accused of looking at such trends through rose-colored glasses, we will offer these positives to seasonal hiring, the first three of which are the most important:
No. 1: Seasonal hiring brings two months, or more, worth of income into the pockets of Bradley County workers who need the support.
No. 2: The benefits of seasonal hiring don’t always end in January; in truth, an employee’s caliber might be so impressive that managers could choose to offer full-time opportunities, or at the very least, the chance to keep working regularly even if just in a park-time capacity.
No. 3: A strong year-ending season, followed by post-holiday and early-year sales, have been known to encourage business operations to expand their work forces — even if ever-so-slightly — based on staffing needs and business volume.
No. 4: Seasonal paychecks offer two key lifts of spirits to unemployed workers. One, they give a layoff victim the chance to return to the playing field of the gainfully employed and this in itself is a morale boost; and two, they offer retirees or those who want only part-time work the chance to stay busy and to again become working contributors to their community, as well as to their household budgets.
No. 5: Seasonal hiring exposes temporary workers to other career opportunities, both in and outside the workplace, and even inspires some to explore training programs offered through their part-time employer that could lead to future hiring.
No. 6: Seasonal hiring can lead to future callbacks by companies who, later in the year, sometimes find that a business volume increase can justify a few more employees.
The importance of seasonal temporary positions at Christmastime should never be undervalued, not by the worker nor the employer. They can build bridges into a future of opportunity.
And if just a few unemployed residents get full-time jobs as the result of temporary holiday hiring, it is still well worth the time, energy and effort by those who want to work.