Retailers added 547,400 seasonal workers between October and December, or a 42 percent improvement over 2008 when holiday hiring fell to a 22-year low, according to employment data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In addition, analysts at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. determined that after weak hiring in October, retailers picked up the pace in the final two months of the year.  During November, retailers added 100,000 more workers than a year ago.  December employment gains in retail were about 68,000 higher than last year, when only 91,500 workers were added.

“December retail sales were up 2.9 percent from a year ago.  Of course, last year was the worst holiday sales season in decades.  However, retailers are undoubtedly happy with any gain, at this point, considering that we are in the nascent stages of a recovery and many consumers are still being very cautious with their money,” said company chief executive officer John Challenger.

Despite the gains, holiday hiring remained well below pre-recession levels.  Between 2004 and 2007, retailers added an average of 722,300 extra workers in October, November and December.