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Holiday hiring increases hours

    The holiday season is here, and with it temporary jobs that provide a much-needed economic boost.
    But don’t look for an economic turnaround overnight.
    Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO George Segarini said though the holiday jobs are a welcome sight, they don’t compare to the job boon of the summer months, when tourism picks up.
    “Obviously, the seasonal hiring makes a difference in our hiring rates, but it’s not significant,” he said. “It just makes incremental changes in the unemployment rate.”
    The unemployment rate in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties sits at 12.9 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.
    Most of the local seasonal jobs are in retail, Segarini noted, largely at big-box stores.
    “There’s also some hiring with smaller businesses, but to a lesser extent,” he said.
    Job numbers don’t reveal the entire seasonal job-boon picture, according to Segarini. There is also a shadow-stimulus brought on by increased hours for existing employees, who find themselves working more due to the holiday traffic.
    That is, if they’re lucky.
    Wal-Mart is one example of this, where seasonal workers aren’t typically hired in favor of giving existing employees more hours. 
        “We haven’t hired a lot of seasonal workers,” Wal-Mart Manager Gunnar Clark said. “Last year we didn’t either. We’ve been having part-time workers fill in full time for the holiday season.”
    Restaurants have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn, noted Segarini, whose son operates Christopher’s Ristorante Italiano in downtown Sonora.
    Nearby, Eric Davis, owner of the Diamondback Grill said he “is still feeling the slump” as well.
    The holidays have been busier for Davis, but not as busy as in the past.
    “But it doesn’t imply more staff; it may imply a bit more hours,” Davis said.
    Over in Angels Camp, at the UPS processing center, well more than a dozen temporary workers had been hired to help the parcel service get through the busy holiday season.
    UPS will take on seasonal workers — largely sorters and drivers’ helpers — due to the many packages it deals with leading up to Christmas. UPS began hiring 50,000 seasonal workers nationwide in October. The company’s seasonal hiring is largely complete.
    The U.S. Postal Service meanwhile, hasn’t hired any seasonal workers locally, according to USPS spokesman Ralph Petty. Some seasonal hiring has occurred at the large processing center in Sacramento, he noted.
    Petty said a “major decline in first-class mail” customers — due partly to competition from the Internet — has left the USPS unable to hire many seasonal workers.
    Unlike private parcel delivery services, which can increase rates as they see fit, the postal service must get Congressional approval to raise rates.
    Contact Walt Cook at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4530.

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