Hiring for the approaching holiday season in the U.S. is expected to be on par with 2010, in line with an anticipated year-on-year growth decline in seasonal sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

Retailers this season are likely to hire 490,000 additional workers to staff stores in November and December versus 496,000 a year ago. This figure is much better than the grim 2008 and 2009 numbers, but still still remains well below pre-recession levels. In 2007, retailers added 637,000 holiday associates, according to NRF.

U.S. employers added 80,000 jobs last month, with the retail sector adding only 17,800 jobs, down considerably from the 26,300 they hired in the same year-ago period.

Small businesses seem to be in a waiting mode, waiting to see how the early returns work out before they firm up their plans. Of course, many of these firms only need a handful of employees and can hire quickly with a minimum of training, said Eugene Fram, Emeritus Professor of Marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology's E. Philip Saunders College of Business.

Among the major retailers planning to boost their holiday hiring are Macy's Inc., Kohl's Corp. and Target Corp. who are looking to add more holiday workers than they did last year.

Macy's has said it plans to hire approximately 78,000 seasonal associates, up 4 percent from last year, for its Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores, call centers, distribution centers and online fulfillment centers nationwide.

Kohl's plans to increase holiday hiring by about 5 percent, while Target says it will hire slightly more than the 92,000 seasonal workers it added last year.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Toys R Us Inc., and Sears Holdings Corp. said holiday employment will be in line with 2010.

Wal-Mart anticipates hiring about the same number of associates nationwide as they have in recent years. We are hiring associates till the end of November. Hiring decisions are made at the local level, on a store by store basis, spokeswomen Kayla Whaling told the International Business Times.

Toys R Us has announced plans to take on more than 40,000 employees to staff its stores for this holiday season. This number is in line with previous years, when the company hired between 35,000 and 45,000 seasonal workers.

Sears Holding Corp. will hire a number of individuals based on the stores' needs, Kim Freely, Sears' spokesperson, told IBTimes. However, Freely said Sears does not release its estimate of holiday hires.

Meanwhile, Best Buy Co. plans to cut its holiday hiring by half this year, hiring only 15,000 seasonal workers.

Some of the seasonal hiring has been shifted away from stores and toward delivery companies due to the increasing popularity of online shopping.

FedEx Corp. said it will expand its workforce by an additional 20,000 seasonal workers, an increase of 18 percent over last year to help handle the surge in deliveries. FedEx competitor United Parcel Service Inc. announced it may hire 55,000 holiday workers this year, a 10-percent increase from 2010.

We expect our busiest day to be Dec. 22, when we will deliver nearly 300 packages every second, said Dan McMackin, a spokesperson for UPS.

Is it too late to get a seasonal gig?

While holiday jobs fill up quickly, 11 percent of employers who hire seasonal workers said they may still be recruiting as late as December, according to a national survey conducted by CareerBuilder.

I would look at it like a bell curve. There is a lot of hiring that happen through September and October, and a little bit of hiring right before that and right after it, said Erin Peterson, recruitment outsourcing practice leader with Aon Hewitt.

If you are already into November, most of the jobs are taken, but what's also happening is that there is a little bit of turnover, so I wouldn't give up hope if someone is looking for a job now, she added.

Carolyn Hughes, a vice president at career site SimplyHired.com said its website is seeing more than 140,000 jobs nationally with the keyword seasonal, meaning it's definitely not too late to begin your search for a seasonal job this winter.

The average salary for seasonal jobs works out to about $32,000 annually, but that varies greatly due to company, location, industry, experience and benefits, said Hughes.

Turning a seasonal job into a permanent position?

CareerBuilder finds that thirty three percent of employers across industries who are hiring seasonal help plan to transition some into permanent employees.

Some people stay on after the holidays, but those decisions are made at Wal-Mart's local level based on the stores' needs, Whaling said.

Toys R Us said in a statement that 10 percent of its 2010 holiday workforce got a full-time position out of it.

Dan McMackin, a spokesman for UPS told IBTimes that all seasonal jobs have the potential of turning into a full-time gig.

As a matter of fact, that's how I started 33 years ago. Frankly, the bulk of our people at the senior leaderships level all started handling packages or driving, said McMackin.

We rank and rate people's performance, and once the New Year comes around, it's based on needs. It was a totally different economic times, but in 1978, I got a call back the second week of January, he said.

Behavior skills play a big part at the point of the decision making. Employers don't get to assess this until they see you in action.

So a great thing about the holidays is that people get a chance to show their stuff, said Peterson. It's almost like an extended interview.