Central Ohio Retailers Boost Hiring For Holidays.

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Little by little, Ohio’s jobless rate is dropping. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says the unemployment rate fell to single digits in September. In Central Ohio, that’s partly the result of a slowly improving outlook for retailers. As WOSU’s Tom Borgerding reports seasonal hiring helping reverse a decade long decline in retail employment.

“Retailers just decimated their employment over the recession that’s here.”

And, Columbus Chamber of Commerce economist Bill Lafayette says the recession of 2008 and 2009 came on the heels of post 9-eleven. Ten years ago Central Ohio retail merchants employed 125,000 workers. Today that number stands at 98,000, A drop of more than 20 percent. Northland is gone, City Center is gone. Morse Road and Brice Roard: all retail casualties of the past decade. But, this fall retail employment has bounced off that bottom number and began growing.

“The holiday hiring seems to be stronger than what you would normally expect.”

Lafayette says 11-hundred new workers have been hired this fall by stores and other retail businesses. Case in point: Sugardaddy’s. The five year old business specializes in fresh-baked brownies and blondies. Co-owner Tom Finney says his success hinges on the company’s ability to bake, package and ship its product for next day delivery. Sugardaddy’s has a central kitchen and two retail stores, Polaris Parkway and Gay Street, downtown.

“We’re starting to see more business coming in this year as a result of the pre-holiday order. So we’re very optimistic about the holiday season.”

Finney says the pick-up in business comes from both individuals treating themselves or their family and friends to more sweets and from corporate orders. Finney says companies are again giving gifts to their workers. The additional sales prompts Finney to add workers.

“In our kitchen staff, we will go from about four employees to about eight. Packing and shipping will more than triple. Actually we have a full time packing and shipping director and then we’ll add about four employees there. And of course in our retail stores we will more than double our staffs.” Says Finney.

Finney says most of the seasonal workers will be let go in January but not all of them.

“Usually each year we will maintain one to two employees from holiday onto our full-time roster.”

Economist Lafayette says with the help of retailers like Finney .who decide to add a worker or two will likely translate into modest job growth in 2011.

“The amount of decline that we’ve seen over the last decade puts us in a good position to grow as soon as the recovery takes hold.” Says Lafayette.

Until then, Finney says he’ll be cautious. There’s one job that has not been posted or added this season .the job of taste tester.

(Laughter)….”Actually I’ve gained about 30 pounds since we opened, so. Yeah, we do our own taste-testing.”

Tom Borgerding WOSU News