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      Seasonal hiring could be flat on Grand Strand this year

      It's been a good year for retail sales at the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in the Myrtle Beach Mall and operations manager Brad Andrews hopes that positive trend will continue into the Christmas season. The store expects to hire an additional 20 to 40 sales associates for the holidays, about the same as last year, Andrews said.

      "We've already had two job fairs. We've had some excellent applicants, but we're still looking to fill some positions," Andrews said.

      Though the holiday jobs will be seasonal and part-time in nature, he said many of the retail associates hired over the holidays end up staying longer. "We've been pretty lucky to get great people and we've kept them on board at the end of the year," he said.

      If holiday hiring is flat on the Grand Strand this year, it would follow the national trend, according to the nation's largest retail trade group. The National Retail Federation expects retailers to hire around 480,000 to 500,000 seasonal workers this year; they hired 496,000 in 2010. The NRF expects holiday sales nationwide to increase about 2.8% this year, which would be much lower than the 5.2% increase in 2010.

      At the Belk department store in the Myrtle Beach Mall, manager Michael Ujcich anticipates hiring perhaps a dozen seasonal employees this year. That would be slightly more than last year, he said, but the store is finalizing an expansion project that will add thousands of additional square feet of sales area, creating the need to hire more people.

      "We have the need and our customer response, our customer sales have been great and it just means that we want to be able to take care of our guests and more associates satisfies that need," said Ujcich.

      Those interested in a seasonal job at Belk can apply online at the retailer's website, Ujcich said.

      Officials at the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce office in Conway say there are signs that seasonal employment in Horry County could be better than just flat this year. In 2010, job orders from retailers didn't come into the office until November and even early December, much later in the season than normal. This year, the office is already receiving orders for holiday hiring from retailers like Toys R Us, K-Mart and Home Depot.

      "It looks more on the positive side. We're getting more job orders in much earlier than we did last year. They are definitely hiring," said Susan Crutchfield, business service representative for the Conway employment office.

      Among those who may end up seeking a seasonal retail job is Carol Cleaver-Hesser of Aynor, who came to the employment office Wednesday to aid her job search. Retail wouldn't be the type of job she's hoping for, but "I would take one if it came along, yes," she said.

      Cleaver-Hesser has an electronics degree from Horry-Georgetown Tech, but has been unable to find a job locally in that field. After searching in vain for something to come along, any job would be welcome, she said. "It's better than sitting here collecting unemployment. If you can get a job, get it."

      What do you think about the holiday hiring trend this year? Do you think local retailers will hire more people, fewer people or about the same? If you're unemployed or under-employed, will you be looking for a seasonal job this year?