Holiday hiring is headed for a five-year high

October 10, 2012, 7:01 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Ho ho ho. Recent announcements by Macy’s (M) and Toys ‘R Us that they’ll add 125,000 more holiday jobs this year than last are, it turns out, just the tip of the iceberg. Altogether, U.S. retailers, including restaurants, have so far said they plan to hire 413,700 seasonal workers, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Even merrier, the number of those temporary jobs that will turn permanent is expected to reach pre-recession levels, according to a new survey of over 1,000 hiring managers by hourly-job site Snagajob and research firm IPSOS Public Affairs.

“For the past few years, we’ve had to talk about ‘incremental improvements’ in holiday hiring,” says Jason Hamilton, a Snagajob vice president. “But this year, we finally see strong indications that we’re moving back toward the holiday hiring levels we were accustomed to before the recession.”

Among hiring managers responsible for bringing on seasonal help, 63% will add temporary headcount, the highest percentage in the five years that Snagajob has conducted this survey, and a marked increase over last year’s 51%. And those doing the hiring will bring more people aboard — almost 50% more than in 2011, and nearly twice as many as in 2009.

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Job hunters hoping for full-time holiday work, as opposed to part-time, stand a better chance of getting it. About half of seasonal workers (49%) are expected to be full-time hires, the highest level in five years. The reason for this flurry of job creation: Snagajob’s poll measures retailers’ optimism for the fourth quarter, an index that has nearly tripled since this time last year.

Moreover, it seems many expect consumers’ shopping spree to continue when the holidays are over. “Hiring managers in the survey said that fully half of their holiday hires will be able to stay on in permanent jobs after the New Year,” Hamilton notes. That’s a big jump from the past few years, when only 15 to 20% of holiday jobs turned permanent.

Anyone hoping for a holiday job — average pay: $10.70 per hour (unchanged from 2011) — would be smart to get on it ASAP: 57% of hiring managers expect to fill all their seasonal openings by the end of October, up from 46% last year.

Snagajob also recommends casting a wide net. “Beyond traditional department and retail stores and restaurants, consider other kinds of employers who also do a lot of seasonal hiring,” Hamilton suggests. Among those are resorts staffing up for winter vacations, movie theaters, online stores that need extra help with inventory and customer service, shipping companies, and tax preparers.