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Small businesses face disadvantage amid holiday labor shortage

U.S. retail sales beat expectations in October
U.S. retail sales beat expectations in October 02:25

Retail sales surged by nearly 2% in October — the biggest gain since March, when many Americans received stimulus checks. Economists expect the buying surge to continue through the holidays, but many retailers are struggling to fill holiday job openings. 

Eve Golden can't find any full-time workers to staff her New Jersey boutique. She has to close her store every day for half an hour to pick up her daughter from school. 

"I post on social media, ask friends of friends. It just seems like no one is available to work right now," Golden said. 

She gets by with two high school students who can only work in the afternoon. 

"I could use one to two more people, for sure," she said, adding that she's been looking for extra help for months. 

With the holidays nearing, it's not just mom-and-pop stores that are looking for a helping hand. Nationwide, companies could fill more than 600,000 seasonal jobs, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Amazon is looking for 150,000 new employees, Kohl's needs 90,000 and UPS needs to hire 100,000 workers to keep up with increased demand. 

"We have a new process — apply and if you have a clean work record, you can get a job offer in 30 minutes or less," said Sarah Shatan, a UPS communications supervisor. 

"We want to give an opportunity to people who want to work immediately to get that position," she said of the short process. 

Large companies looking to entice seasonal workers are doing what they can to bring in applicants. Amazon, Walmart and Macy's are among many offering unprecedented wages and signing bonuses, health care benefits and even tuition reimbursement. 

After not working for three months, Tito Angelo was lured to a Nordstrom job fair by a $250 cash bonus. He was hired on the spot. 

"Ultimately it was worth it because I walked out with a job," Angelo said. 

Small businesses like Golden's boutique can't compete with the incentives. 

"We're not like a multimillion dollar company," Golden said. "We're successful, but we are [a] mom-and-pop shop at the end of the day."

For mom-and-pop shops to big box stores, the worker shortage could translate into longer lines and higher prices for consumers. 

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