Retailers slammed with preparations for the Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping bonanza last month added 471,000 workers to payrolls -- a number that fell 4.7% short of the record 494,400 seasonal employees brought on board during November 2012.
Last year, holiday hiring got off to its strongest start in 14 years, according to consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. This year, November's gains still represent the second-highest single-month retail employment boost in history.
Still, the year-over-year slump, calculated based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, may signal a weak holiday retail season, according to Challenger
Original reports of 159,500 retail hiring gains in October were adjusted down to 158,000 add-ons. Malls, shops and other retailers hired 629,000 employees in October and November -- 2.3% less than they did during the same two-month stretch last year.
Over the season, Target said it plans to hire 70,000 holiday workers -- down from 88,000 last year. J.C. Penney's seasonal hiring is expected to slide by 5,000 workers to 35,000 employees.
But retailers such as Macy's, Wal-Mart and Amazon have all said they plan to bring on more workers than they did during the same period last year.
Still, Challenger said it doesn't put much faith in a December hiring surge. The firm also thinks the 2.9% year-over-year holiday retail sales surge predicted by the National Retail Federation "could prove to be elusive" after heavy discounting caused Thanksgiving weekend spending to decline nearly 3%.