By Anne Fisher, contributor
FORTUNE -- It's beginning to look a little more like Christmas for jobseekers. Toys R Us will add about 45,000 salespeople, toy demonstrators, and warehouse workers for the holiday season, the company announced a few days ago. Macy's (M) plans to bring on 78,000 people for the holidays, a 4% increase over last year's holiday hiring. Altogether, predicts Chicago outplacement giant Challenger Gray & Christmas, seasonal payrolls will swell by about 620,000 over the next three months.
That doesn't mean all retailers are bringing more hands on deck. Discount Shoe Warehouse (DSW), for instance, saw double-digit sales gains in the quarter ended July 31, but is nevertheless stepping cautiously. Rather than add seasonal workers, the company plans to ask its existing employees to put in more hours.
With such a mixed outlook, applicants are starting their job hunts earlier than usual, says a new poll from hourly-worker job site Snagajob: Almost half (45%) of those hoping for a holiday gig began looking in August and September, while one-third (33%) said they'll start in October.
Applicants off to a late start face stiffer competition this year from those who have held holiday jobs in the past, notes Snagajob CEO Shawn Boyer. The roughly 1,000 managers in the survey said that 53% of their temporary hires "will be people who worked for them in past holiday seasons and are coming back," says Boyer. "That's an eight-point increase over last year."
Even so, casting a wide enough net can boost anyone's chances of landing a seasonal gig.
"Keep in mind that all kinds of businesses, not just retailers, need extra help during the holidays. So try catering companies, restaurants, theatres, delivery services like UPS," Boyer suggests. "Don't forget to ask around among friends and family members." More
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