It remains a very difficult holiday season for many Americans. With unemployment running 9.6 percent, nearly 15 million are out of work. Retailers - America's biggest employers - are hiring more temporary workers this season than they did in the past two years.
"Hello, how are you?" asks Victoria Morales. "You finding everything OK?"
Morales had been out of work for four months, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. Then she landed a temporary holiday job at the Pumpkin Patch, a clothing store at the Glendale Galleria near Los Angeles. It's the best Christmas present she and her three kids could ask for.
"I said, 'Mommy's going to do a good job so I can take you to Chuck E. Cheese. I can take you to go get your shoes, I can take you wherever you want,'" she says. "We're going to go to Disneyland."
This twenty-store kid's clothing chain hired 163 temporary holiday workers, 16 percent more than last year. Retailers think consumers are finally ready to dust off their wallets and spend again.
"The stock market is up, housing prices have stabilized. I think people are feeling much better than they were last year or the year before," says Moodys.com economist Mark Zandi.
Overall, retailers are adding between 550,000 and 650,000 holiday jobs, more than last year but still well below the more than 720,000 added in 2007 just as the recession began.
So who's hiring? Toys R Us is bringing on 45,000 holiday employees, a 30 percent jump over last year. Amazon.com hired more than 15,000 people to fill what it expects will be more orders at its shipping centers. And to deliver all those packages, UPS is bringing in 50,000 more workers.
With the unemployment rate at nearly 10 percent, employers have a lot of choices. The labor pool is full of highly experienced and highly educated job seekers.
"Even though we are seeing more jobs created this year, competition is very stiff. College kids are competing with out-of-work adults," says John Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
The good news for people like Morales is that 40 percent of employers hiring holiday workers plan to make some of them full-time employees. That's up from 31 percent last year.
"I need the money," says Morales. "I need the time." She wants to be there long-term, but in the short term she's simply hoping shoppers are ready to buy.