The outlook for holiday employment, says job search portal CareerCast.com, is bright. In fact, says the site's publisher Tony Lee not only are employers offering more temporary jobs this year than last, the odds that a temporary gig will turn permanent are better than at any time in the past five years.
Why? "We're just one more year further down the road, in terms of economic recovery," he explains. The Department of Labor predicts hiring will be up 3 percent this season.
Being Santa tops the "best" side of CareerCast's list of "Best And Worst Holiday Jobs of 2012," since St. Nick's pay, according to Lee, can top $100 an hour, provided the employer is jolly enough. Being an elf, however, tops the "worst" list, since elves typically make minimum wage. Even so, competition for elf jobs is fierce, says Lee, because of the legion of high-school students who want them so they can earn money for gifts.
Also a bad job: Christmas tree lot attendant. Here again, Lee says, the pay is minimum wage at best, although personable attendants can make more in tips. Attendants, the site notes, are exposed to the elements and often go home covered in sap, from having spent all day lugging pines and cramming them into customers' cars.
Parcel deliverer, which Lee says pays a maximum of $18 an hour, qualifies as a good job. The U.S. Post Office, FedEx and UPS all add extra workers at holiday time to handle the increased volume of packages being shipped under tight deadlines. FedEx alone is looking to hire as many as 20,000 seasonal workers this year, according to Lee.
Which seasonal jobs have the best chance of becoming permanent? Not snow remover—a worst-list job, demand for which tends to taper off after March. Nor candy maker, since, as CareerCast points out, the 1.7 billion candy canes consumed annually are almost all consumed at Christmas.
Retail salesperson and food server, however, both on the best-jobs list, could turn permanent, especially if the economy improves. The National Retail Foundation estimates that retailers will add about 600,000 new jobs this holiday, says Lee. Holiday retail jobs, he says, typically pay less than $10 an hour.
CareerCast's list of the best seasonal jobs includes one that, whether permanent or temporary, pays zero: "Volunteer."
"There's an intrinsic reward in working on behalf of others," says Lee. "For people who cannot afford to make gifts of money, volunteering is a way for them to be generous by giving of their time."