By Vicki Needham - 11/11/13 01:33 PM EST
Holiday hiring got off to its strongest start in 14 years, with employers adding 159,500 workers in October.
The increase is 6.7 percent above the October 2012 level, when retailers added 149.4000 to their payrolls, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The strong start bodes well for a holiday hiring season that is expected to create more jobs than last year.
"Strong October hiring does not necessarily mean that holiday hiring will surpass last year’s level, but it is certainly a good sign," said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger.
"We have seen steady increases in the number of seasonal workers hired since 2008, when recession-ravaged retailers added a paltry 324,900 seasonal workers in the final quarter of the year."
October represented the most new hires in the first month of the annual holiday hiring period since 1999, when retail employment expanded by 172,200 in October, the group said on Monday.
The holiday hiring season stretches through the final three months of the year with the strongest job gains usually in November.
Last year, the three-month hiring period resulted in 751,800 new jobs, the most since 2000, returning to pre-recession levels.
"So far, the 16-day federal government shutdown does not appear to have had any impact on retail hiring plans," Challenger said.
Several major national chains, including Target, Walmart, Macy’s, Kohls, and JCPenney, have announced fairly significant hiring plans.
Online retailer, Amazon.com, is reportedly adding 70,000 holiday workers, up from last year’s 50,000, Challenger siad.
While consumer spending remains shaky amid fiscal policy uncertainty in Washington, consumers are continuing to spend.
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation is expecting holiday sales in November and December to increase by 3.9 percent, up slightly from last year’s 3.5 percent.