Seasonal hiring on upswing in recent years as winter season arrives in Collier, Lee

Jobs graphic.

Jobs graphic.

— As northerners pull fleece jackets and hats out from storage, nurse Deb Norton is grateful for seasonal work that lets her spend the winter in Fort Myers instead of Fort Wayne.

The "snowbird nurse," as she calls herself, is part of Southwest Florida's wintertime work force.

Unlike in colder climates, Southwest Florida employers need not only factor in hiring for a few busy holiday shopping weeks, but also for months of the region's peak population season.

The health-care industry contributes hundreds of jobs to the roughly 13,300 seasonal positions in Collier and Lee counties. In Collier County, seasonal hiring has increased each of the past two years.

National forecasts released in late September by outsourcing firm Challenger Gray & Christmas predict a 6 percent increase in seasonal hiring this year over the 660,000 positions in the U.S. in 2011.

To spend time in Bonita Springs with her first grandchild five years ago, 53-year-old Norton branched out from Indiana.

Lee Memorial Health System brought her on board as a full-time ER nurse for about six months of the peak season. She's a full employee with benefits, but she can work wherever she wants the rest of the year.

A decade ago, that lifestyle "was a dream," said Norton, a mother of four adult children. "I wouldn't have done that when my kids were little, but it works great now."

Lee Memorial brings on about 125 nurses through established seasonal staff members who come back year after year — supplemented by about 30 more from an agency that provides traveling nurses — or an about 5 percent increase over the permanent nursing staff, hospital spokeswoman Mary Briggs said.

The populations of Lee and Collier increase around 20 percent in the winter months.

Between the grocery stores, retail outlets, hospitals and other employers that rely on seasonal workers, at the peak of employment last season the area's businesses added 7,500 jobs in Collier County, about 5 to 6 percent of the work force, said Gary Jackson, Florida Gulf Coast University professor and head of the school's Regional Economic Research Institute.

While not enough to be statistically significant, Jackson said, it's a slight increase over the prior year's estimate of 7,300 seasonal jobs, and a more dramatic improvement over the year before that, when Collier employers brought on an extra 6,500 at the season's peak.

"It's great we can create those additional jobs," Jackson said, "(but) there is an argument to diversify the economy so we don't have as many swings."

Over the same period, Lee County saw more erratic seasonal hiring, from 7,000 employees in early 2010, to approximately 3,000 the following year, before spiking again to 5,800 early this year.

Lakeland-based Publix supermarkets accounts for a sizable portion of the seasonal hiring, and staffing for the coming months is on par with last season, the company said last week

In late September, hiring started to fill 70 percent of the roughly 550 additional wintertime jobs in Southwest Florida with local hires, Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten said.

The remainder of the positions — at three stores in southern Lee County — will go to foreign students on exchange visas from December to March after Publix had a hard time hiring seasonal local staff in previous years, Patten said.

At the national level, major retailers Macy's and Walmart reported increased hires for the coming holiday season.

Nevertheless, Target Corp. announced in early October it will hire 80,000 to 90,000 seasonal workers nationwide, a dip from 92,000 during last year's holiday season.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features