Olympia area looking better than state for holiday jobs

Staff writerOctober 3, 2013 

The Olympia area is expected to hire more seasonal workers this holiday season, but the overall state forecast is expected to be flat or down from last year. It’s another sign that there still is room for improvement in the economy.

Washington employers are expected to hire about 13,500 workers from October through December, compared with about 13,700 last year, according to the state Employment Security Department, which released a holiday hiring forecast this week.

Most of that employment will come from general merchandise stores, which are expected to fill 7,500 positions, followed by clothing and clothing-accessory stores at 3,700.

Although statewide holiday hiring totals are down from last year, the Olympia area hiring forecast is slightly better, expecting to grow to 462 workers from 356 workers last year, the data show.

And local hiring got off to a good start last week during a two-day job fair at Westfield Capital mall.

About seven employers took part, including Starbucks, Best Buy and Macy’s, said Debbie Burk, who handles workforce development for the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber, Thurston County WorkSource and the mall all played a role in organizing the recent job fair, she said.

The total number of job seekers who attended the event wasn’t immediately available, although Burk estimated it at more than 200 people.

Some employers compared the recent job fair to “speed dating,” Burk said, giving them a chance to meet a number of prospective job candidates in a relatively short period of time.

Kohl’s, too, which has a store in Lacey, has said it plans to hire an average of about 40 people per store for the holidays.

Meanwhile, if the hiring is robust enough, it might help to influence an otherwise dismal Thurston County jobs picture.

In August, the county shed 1,000 jobs, and the year-over-year job growth showed that total nonfarm employment grew only 0.1 percent, an increase of 100 jobs over the same period last year.

This holiday also is the last time seasonal workers will make $9.19 per hour. On Jan. 1, 2014, the state’s minimum wage, already the highest in the country, will increase to $9.32 per hour.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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