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Seasonal work offers hope to unemployed

The holidays could bring good news for the unemployed. Retailers are hiring seasonal employees to help with the rush of shoppers. But job seekers might find more competition than in the past.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The holidays could bring good news for the unemployed: Retailers are hiring seasonal employees to help with the rush of shoppers.

A quick stroll around Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh shows that stores are hiring. Signs saying "We're hiring" and "Discover your career opportunities" dot the mall.

However, job seekers might encounter more competition than in past years.

"I would expect that there would be more people looking for seasonal, part-time (or) casual employment than in years past because of the number of unemployment claims that we've had in the past year," said Bonnie Mills, assistant manager of the Raleigh office of the state Employment Security Commission.

Most company representatives said their businesses are hiring anywhere from a handful to a couple dozen seasonal employees. They're also receiving many more applications than they have open positions, making the competition stiffer.

"This year, I think we're seeing a higher quality of applicants than we have in years past," said Laura Pickell, manager of Lush, a handmade cosmetics store in Crabtree Valley Mall.

Lush has already hired nine employees to work through the holidays, Pickell said.

One of the new seasonal workers is Sarah Bogle. After graduating with a political science major last December, she said, she's experienced the stiff competition for jobs.

"I had an interview at a nonprofit job that went really well, but then 60 other applicants came in for one position," Bogle said.

Such job applicants can display certain characteristics to make themselves stand out, Pickell said.

"Be enthusiastic. Be excited about it. And make sure you have as open an availability as possible," she recommended.

Bogle found applying those lessons helped her land the seasonal job.

"I walked in Lush with my resume, and they were having the interview that night," she said. "I was invited to the group, and it just worked out really well."

Employment officials recommend applying as soon as possible for seasonal jobs. Companies are already filling positions.

The pay varies, although a lot of companies pay just minimum wage.