Lowe’s plans to hire 54,000 part-time workers this spring, and 9,000 of the jobs will be permanent, the home improvement retailer announced this week.
The major hiring reflects not only a gradual turnaround in the housing market but also a rebound in the economy and a loosening job market.
Lowe’s move toward large-scale hiring of part-time workers, whether seasonal or permanent, also reflects another trend, according to John Challenger of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Companies are relying more on part-timers to fill specific needs and they are using the opportunity to identify permanent workers who “fit in” with the company’s culture. It’s an interview process that lasts several months instead of one that lasts a few hours.
Lowe’s said it’s hiring in customer support, including cashiers, lawn and garden specialists, loaders and stockers. The average work week will be 20 to 25 hours, but actual hours will be based on needs of individual stores, the company said in a release. The seasonal jobs will continue through September, the company said.
The company said the retailer has 63 stores in Georgia and a distribution center in Valdosta. Another distribution center will open in Rome later this year. The company will hire around 26 workers per store for the spring and summer. It employs 8,500 workers in Georgia. The Mooresville, N.C.-based retailer has about 1,745 locations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Lowe’s chief competitor, Atlanta-based Home Depot, has not announced its hiring plans for the spring.
Lowe’s announcement comes on the heels of robust hiring over the Christmas holiday, according to Challenger, who said U.S. retailers added 728,300 jobs in October, November and December, a 10 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.
While the jobs of many of the seasonal workers ended after the holiday season, some became full-timers while others kept their part-time positions beyond the holiday. Actual numbers on how many jobs were retained after the holiday, however, were not available.
Companies like Lowe’s are much more open to hiring people for specific areas of expertise on a part-time, contractual basis, Challenger said. “The idea that everybody is 9 to 5, full time is long gone,” he said.
Seasonal hiring this past holiday season helped trim unemployment rolls in many areas. Metro Atlanta’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in December, compared with 8.6 percent across the state. The statewide figure was down from 9.4 percent unemployment a year ago.
Challenger said it’s too early to say whether retailers in other industries will follow Lowe’s hiring lead. While the housing industry is on the mend — with more home construction, remodeling and home buying with low interest rates — consumers remain skittish when it comes to buying big-ticket items. Many retailers want to see an improvement in consumer confidence before adding to their payrolls.