Tri-City retailers are expecting to hire fewer seasonal workers this holiday shopping season, according to estimates released by the state Friday.
The state Employment Security Department expects that area retail stores will hire about 405 seasonal workers, compared with 644 last year.
Retail businesses will hire based on how they feel the season is going, and in some cases, who businesses see as their customers will affect the number of new positions, said Candice Bluechel, WorkSource Columbia Basin business services manager.
Typically, larger clothing and craft stores add staff for the holidays, she said.
Amazon.com also adds employees at its Kennewick customer service center because of an increase in online shopping.
Statewide, retail hiring likely will just match, or fall slightly below, last year's numbers, said state economists.
They expect stores to add nearly 13,000 jobs statewide from October through December, with most of the gains coming in November. Last year, they hired 14,700 workers, which was about 17 percent more than predicted, said a state news release.
"Seasonal work often can be a gateway back into the workforce for the unemployed," said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. "However, the uncertainty that retailers are feeling will make that less of an option this year."
In the Tri-Cities, Bluechel expects to see similar trends based on how sales go. If sales are up, stores may hire more seasonal employees.
And sales were showing growth this spring, according to state data released Friday.
Tri-City retail sales figures increased from April to June compared with the same quarter last year.
Richland saw the greatest increase, with a 17 percent jump in taxable retail sales from $221.7 million last spring quarter to $260.2 million for the same period this year.
Gary Ballew, Richland's economic development manager, said the city has seen growth in all of the five key categories it tracks for retail sales -- big box retailers, restaurants, hotels, construction and large ticket items such as cars and boats.
There haven't been many new stores added during that time, he said. McCurley's Honda dealership moved to Fowler Street in Richland in April 2010, which helped with the increase in big purchases.
Overall, Richland is seeing some of the benefits of the city's efforts in the past two decades to draw more retail options to town, Ballew said.
Retail sales taxes are one of the three major revenues for cities, along with property taxes and utility taxes and fees.
Increased retail sales means more money for city services.
Kennewick's taxable retail sales grew by almost 6 percent from $363.3 million in the second quarter of last year to $384.3 million this spring.
Overall, in Benton County, total taxable retail sales grew by 11 percent to $761.7 million.
But Pasco's total taxable retail sales dropped about 1 percent from $221.6 million last spring quarter to $218.5 million this year.
Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director, said the drop could be attributed to a decline in new construction this year.
As of September, 402 homes had received building permitted, which was 41 fewer than by September 2011, he said. That represents a $5 million difference in permitting value for new homes.
Industrial and commercial construction also is down in Pasco this year, he said.
Retail trade in Pasco had a slight growth of almost 1 percent in sales, to $96 million in the second quarter this year, according to the state.
Overall, in Franklin County, total taxable retail sales remained relatively unchanged, with a bump of nearly 1 percent, at $259.8 million for the second quarter this year.