The holiday hiring season is right around the corner, but expectations are lower for this year.  Retailers nationwide are expected to hire about 700,000 seasonal employees between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, according to the employment placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  The firm's CEO John Challenger says that is a slight decrease from a year ago.  "We saw just over 750,000 people added last year between Oct. 1st and Dec. 31st," he tells KTRH.  "It looks like this year won't quite equal that, but that was the biggest year in 12 years." 

Challenger explains that part of the reason for the expected decrease in holiday hiring this year is because the overall unemployment rate is lower.  "This year there has been a lot of hiring in the first and second quarter, which may give retailers more people to count on before they add in this temporary staff," he says.  Another big factor in the seasonal hiring numbers is consumer sentiment, which dropped to a six-month low this month, one month after hitting a six-year high.  "Consumer sentiment seems moody right now," says Challenger.  "That kind of up-and-down could cause retail forecasters to be cautious about hiring too many people until they really see where the consumer is at this season."

Despite the projection of a slight drop in hiring, there is plenty of positive economic news ahead of this holiday season.  The consulting firm Deloitte is forecasting a 4-4.5% increase in holiday sales this year, and Wal-Mart recently announced plans to hire 55,000 seasonal workers this year, 5,000 more than last year.  Challenger agrees that the overall trend for the retail industry is still positive.  "This year will likely not be as good as last year, but it will still be much better than some of the tough times we've seen earlier in the decade," he says.