Hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken on temporary jobs this holiday season, as employers gain confidence in the signs of stronger consumer demand. And for some of the workers, the temporary positions are turning into the one thing they want most this Christmas: permanent jobs.
"Retailers are feeling pretty confident right now," said Marshall Cohen, chief retail analyst with the NPD Group. "They've got their swagger going."
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All told, U.S. companies will hire an estimated 600,000 temporary workers this holiday season, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. That's more workers added to the holiday payrolls than in the past three years.
Demand is so high for extra help that Amazon.com, the world's largest online retail, has already hired 15,000 temporary workers. It's so many extra employees that the company has even started camps in places such as Kentucky where employees can park their RVs to sleep between 10-hour shifts. They'll work until Christmas Eve for $10 an hour.
Toys R Us is also jumping on the trend, hiring 45,000 temporary employees, a 30 percent increase from last year. UPS is hiring 50,000 extra workers.
The people who apply for the jobs are often overqualified, but store managers are delighted to have them.
"They're a lot more dependable, better quality, absolutely," said Joe Cardamone, a store manager at a J.C. Penney's in Manhattan. "They want to work and they need to work, so it's to our advantage to have that kind of quality out there right now."
There are also some indications that more of the temporary positions could become permanent. Forty percent of employers with seasonal workers this fall plan on offering permanent jobs, up from last year, according to a survey by CareerBuilder.
"[Retailers] have been profitable almost every month throughout the year,"analyst Cohen said. "That means they're going to look to continue to ride that wave and keep some of these temporary employees that are showing some good promise and keep them on for a longer period of time."
That's the case for Beulah Hargrove. She accepted a holiday job at a New York J.C. Penney's store and has already been asked to stay on after Christmas Eve.
"I'll be working here after the holidays, which I'm very proud of," she said. "It's really hard to get a job now."