What Is Seasonal Unemployment? (Examples and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 2, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Some professions don't have work during certain periods within a year. These jobs come with unique challenges and benefits for those who do them. As a result, understanding what seasonal unemployment is can help you plan your career more effectively. In this article, we discuss what it means to be seasonally unemployed, outline its benefits, detail some challenges, highlight tips for coping with it, explore how it differs from disguised unemployment, and provide some examples to aid your understanding.

What is seasonal unemployment?

Seasonal unemployment is when people temporarily lose their jobs because the employer requires fewer employees during a particular season. It occurs when the season influences the demand for certain products, causing employers to increase and reduce their workforce as appropriate. For example, in November, a gift shop may employ two more attendants to cater to the winter holiday demand. Then, the shop may relieve these two attendants of their jobs in January, when the traffic has reduced, and their roles aren't necessary anymore.

Benefits of seasonal work

Here are some of the benefits of seasonal work:

It's predictable

Periodic unemployment usually coincides with seasons, giving it a level of certainty. In addition, many seasonal employers usually give employees a time frame from the start of their contracts. As a result, these individuals can prepare for when they don't have a job and plan for it. For example, they may start applying for other jobs.

Allows you to engage in other activities

Periodic unemployment that results from seasonal work makes it easier to combine working with other activities. For example, a college student on break during summer can get a summer job. This allows them to earn money while continuing their education. This is great for those trying to make extra money and those who dislike being idle.

Allows learning new skills

When you're seasonally unemployed, you can use your time for other ventures while waiting for your job to return. This is a great opportunity to learn skills, especially if they're time intensive. People with seasonal jobs can use this opportunity to develop their skills and competence to advance into more stable and lucrative careers. For example, a resort employee can learn project management when the business is out of season.

Allows you to combine careers

You can leverage periodic unemployment to have multiple careers. Due to their predictability, it's easier to plan another career around seasonal jobs. For example, you may have a normal job and combine that with a seasonal career that only functions during winter. This allows you to reap the benefits of multiple careers, including a higher income and more exposure.

Offers some protection

While seasonal unemployment can present challenges, it offers much better prospects than traditional unemployment. WIth periodic unemployment, you can be sure of working for a particular period within a year. You can use that time to save for other seasons. You can also learn new skills and work towards getting a more stable job.

Tips for coping with periodic unemployment

Here are some tips to help you cope with periodic unemployment:

Plan ahead

The best way to cope with being seasonally unemployed is to plan. As you're aware of your status, it's best you start preparing for when you're out of a job. You can plan your year, so you have a list of jobs you want to apply for before your seasonal job ends. You can prepare your resumes in advance to make the application process easier.

Practise your skills

Practising your skills ensures you're proficient by the time you resume your seasonal job. You can dedicate time to practising or get a new job that uses the same skills. For example, teachers can practise explaining concepts while the schools are on a break.

Save diligently

Saving can help you cope with the financial stress of periodic unemployment. You can calculate living expenses for the period without a job and save towards it. Consider automating your savings to stay consistent.

Related: How Does Unemployment Work? Plus How to Navigate It

Consider starting a business

Having a business allows you to earn an extra income when you don't have a job. This can help you maintain your standard of living. Starting a business also helps you develop many vital professional skills.

Difference between seasonal and disguised unemployment

Seasonal and disguised unemployment are entirely different concepts. While seasonal unemployment involves losing your job due to low traffic in a season, disguised unemployment involves appearing like you're employed, but you aren't. Disguised unemployment usually occurs because there's overstaffing, so employees aren't functioning to their full capacity. It can be hard to spot, making it a tricky type of unemployment. In certain cases, disguised unemployment can impact overall productivity, such that reducing employees increases efficiency. An example of disguised unemployment involves 10 people working in a job that five people can do.

Related: How Do I Know When I Need a New Job? (And What Comes Next)

Examples of seasonal roles

Here are some examples of seasonal unemployment:

Construction

Harry works as a construction manager. His duties include overseeing the construction project, procuring relevant resources, ensuring safety standards, and providing updates to his client. Harry also ensures that all construction activities abide by relevant laws and regulations. Still, Harry knows winter is coming with a lot of rain and snow. This can make it impossible to continue construction, meaning Harry may pause the project. As a result, Harry is likely to experience unemployment during the winter. To protect his income, he can start applying for jobs he can do during winter.

Holiday work

Jane is an actress and performer. She joined a travelling theatre presenting various Christmas dramas across the country. Jane plays different roles in three plays. Her duties include memorizing her lines and coming for rehearsals. Jane also works with the stage manager to coordinate with other actors and actresses. After each show, the cast meets the audience and takes a tour around the city. The travelling play only operates from the last week in November to the second week in January.

Jane knows that this job ends in January, leaving her unemployed. To prepare for the unemployment phase, Jane can start applying to acting jobs at traditional theatres. She may also decide to apply for a job in another industry that guarantees more stability. Jane may start applying for a new job in December.

Related: Tips on How to Look for a New Job While Still Employed

Teaching

Ben is a math teacher at a high school in his province. His duties involve forming class notes, giving and marking assessment tests, organizing class activities, and teaching the students. He also engages his senior students in career counselling and speaks to parents about tips to improve their children's abilities. Like other schools, Ben's school has 190 school days. This means that Ben remains unemployed for 175 days of the year. Ben runs a freelance business as an online math tutor to prepare for periodic unemployment, allowing him to work throughout the year.

Selling ice cream

John owns an ice cream truck. He has some regular streets he drives through to sell ice cream to his customers. John has noticed that ice cream sales peak during summer when the weather is hot. Contrastingly, during winter, sales drop to zero. John expects the phase of unemployment during winter, so he has a snow shovelling business. While this is also seasonal, it pairs well with his other job, ensuring that he's gainfully employed throughout the year.

Hospitality services

Emma works as a server in a resort at Yukon. The resort is popular during the holiday and is usually fully booked. Still, patronage drops significantly at other times of the year. As a result, the resort owners usually shut down most of it, only leaving the few parts that still generate an income. As a server, Emma expects to lose her job once the holidays are over. Emma has enrolled in culinary school to address this periodic unemployment.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Find a Job? (Plus Helpful Tips)

Agriculture

Anna works on a local farm during the summer. She's responsible for planting seeds, weeding, watering the plants, harvesting them, and processing orders from nearby stores. Anna also does some administrative work for the farm. Unfortunately, the farm only grows crops that bloom in the summer. As a result, Anna is likely to be out of a job once summer ends. To address the unemployment, Anna starts applying for a new job in June.

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