Thursday, December 18, 2014

For Low-Wage Americans, The Holiday Season Is A Time To Work

From Huffington Post:

For many American workers, this is the time of year for tying up loose ends and taking it easy. For Simon Ting, this is the time of year for working harder than ever.

Ting, 24, works at a Macy’s in San Francisco, and he’s paid largely on commission. That means the more he sells, the more money he makes -- and the holiday season is a great time for selling. Ting tries to be at Macy’s for as many of the store’s extended hours as he can during the holiday rush. He knows sales will be hard to come by after New Year’s. In past holiday seasons, when he staffed other retailers’ stores, Ting worked so much he slept on the stockroom floor between shifts.

“I get a really massive amount of my paycheck during these two months, so I have to save that money,” Ting said. “After the holiday season is over, no one is really in the store anymore, and you don’t make any money anymore. That’s going to be really rough.”

Ting isn’t alone. A steady paycheck has grown elusive for many Americans in an economic recovery dominated by part-time, low-wage work. That work is often in retail, where the holiday season is a time to put in as many hours as possible -- sometimes at multiple jobs and on holidays like Thanksgiving -- to build a cushion for leaner months. Those leaner months often come right after the holidays, as stores hire less, lay off seasonal employees and cut permanent workers’ hours to cope with slower sales.

Retail companies typically boost payrolls by 3 percent to 4 percent from October to December, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That’s followed by a 5 percent to 6 percent decline in retail payrolls from December to February.

“If you’re looking for extra money, or that’s the only job you can find, that’s better than nothing, but it’s certainly not something you can build a life on,” said Drew DeSilver, a senior writer at Pew who conducted the analysis.

The people lucky enough to work for a retailer year-round typically make less after Christmas ends. Rank-and-file employees at clothing and clothing accessories stores made $266.64 a week, on average, in December 2013, according to BLS data that is not seasonally adjusted. The following month, that number fell to $248.35.

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