Fulton, NY – Carrie Howard is a single mother of three young boys in Fulton, NY.
She says she had not worked for a few years when her boys were young and she still lived with their father.
Now, she's trying to make her way back into the workforce to be able to give the boys a good Christmas. She says that's hard work.
"You have to do what basically everyone else has to do," she says. "You have to go out and you have to be vigilant and you have to fill out applications."
It's tough, but she says she was determined.
"Being a single mom," she says, "I have to want to stand on my own two feet and provide for my family. You know, it's easy to just live off the system, but that only lasts so long, and you have to be able to fend for yourself."
Sometimes, though, Carrie says being a single mom could work against her in job searching.
"I had a few interviews where I was interviewed and then I'd call and they'd say oh, well we found someone already,'" she says, "which is kind of a bruise to your ego because, you know, you're like I haven't worked in two-and-a-half years are they holding that against me?'"
Then, she applied at Target, the big box retail store.
"Target was a fluke," she says. "I started thinking about who would be hiring at the season time. Retail, obviously, [is] a big big seasonal workforce area."
Rebecca Flack, with the Retail Council of New York State, says Carrie's right. She says it's an especially big area for seasonal work this year, as a slightly improved economy is leading to higher numbers of shoppers this holiday season.
"It appears that retailers are feeling a bit more confident about the 2010 holiday season," says Flack. "The Retail Council of New York State conducted a survey of its members, and those who responded 77% of them said they plan to hire the same number of employees as they did last year or more."
It turns out, that's even better news for Carrie. She heard back from Target.
"I went in for an interview," she says. "They interviewed me twice, and then they asked me if I had any more questions, and I said Um when can I start?' You know, I asked if they liked me and if they thought I'd be a good fit for their company, and they said that they thought I would be - which was an amazing feeling."
Now, Carrie works in hard lines. She says that's the part of the store with hard floors - basically everything except clothes - but, she says, she's starting to work as a cashier, which she says improves the chances Target will hire her full-time after the holiday season is over.
Mary Kelly is executive of soft lines at the Target store for which Carrie works. She says the stor can end up offering jobs to the seasonal workers they hire for the holidays.
"Most of them are only looking for seasonal employment," says Kelly, "but we will keep a few people on throughout - some of the ones we're really impressed with and some of the ones that are interested in staying on, we will have a few openings at the beginning of the year that we will end up offering those positions to."
The New York State Department of Labor reports that retail stores like Target have hired at least one thousand more seasonal workers this year than they did last year, and Carrie says she's just happy to be among them.
She says most people don't want to be unemployed; it's just a product of their circumstances - whether it's the economy or, in Carrie's case, family.
While she knows there's no guarantee she'll be able to hold onto her job once the holidays are over, she says to count her among the workers interested in the idea of keeping her job.
"I'm doing what I can to try to get trained in all different areas of the store so I'm more important. So I'm not as expendable."
She says not only does having a job allow her to provide a better holiday season for her boys, but she says it allows her to escape the pressures of being a stay-at-home mom, if only for a few hours per day.