Discover more from Monday Morning Economist
Oh No No: Where Did all the Santas Go? 🎅
Are you planning to take some family photos with Santa this year? Be prepared to search around for a bit longer than you remember because Santa Claus might not be coming to your town this year. The pandemic has impacted a lot of different labor markets over the past year and a half, and the market for Santa Claus isn’t immune! The US’s own self-proclaimed “National Santa” told The Washington Post that 18% of his fellow Santas were taking this year off. Coupled with an increased demand for Santa appearances, this reduction has resulted in a Santa shortage.
Mitch Allen is the founder of HireSanta.com, which helps companies locate bearded professionals to play Santa. In a statement to Insider, Allen said his site has seen a 121% increase in people hiring Santa for various events compared to two years ago (i.e. before the pandemic). At the same time, Allen noted that his site has 10% fewer entertainers willing to work. Some explanations for the dropoff include death, fear of death, or retirement. The pandemic hit the Santa Claus community hard last year and continues to be a threat for very obvious reasons: the men who play this role are at high risk for infection given their age and potential co-morbidities like a high BMI.
You may be thinking that companies can grab any bearded employee or relative to step in, but it’s not all that easy. For starters, a Santa suit alone can easily cost $1,000. Even a “low budget” suit can cost $350, but that assumes you can even find a Santa suit! The same supply chain issues that are making it hard to get your gifts are also making it harder to get new Santa suits on the shelf. A spokeswoman for Costumes for Santa told The Washington Post:
There's a lot of needed items that are still on the sea in containers. Our wholesalers have not gotten their product from China ... Stuff that should have come in in August is coming in now.
Perhaps a shortage of suits is just what the US needs to rethink the tariff rate on those imported Santa suits. Santa suits are taxed at different rates because it’s not clear whether they should be tagged as clothing or as a festive article. If you’re thinking of picking up a side gig as a seasonal Santa, a fancy suit isn’t the only thing you need to consider. An untrained Santa may convince a few young kids, but many professionals attend Santa training to learn the tricks of the trade.
On the upside, this shortage may be the final push to diversify the Santa profession: only 5% of Santas identify as non-White. This could also open the door for more women to work in the industry. There’s no reason Mrs. Claus can’t enter the labor market and start making appearances at mall outings. We likely can’t predict the long-term impact of these shortages or if these shortages will change the diversity of mall Santas, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to put out a few extra cookies on Santa’s plate this year.
Volunteers at NORAD’s Santa hotline will answer more than 130,000 calls from children across the globe [NORAD]
On average, kids in the US stop believing in Santa when they are 8.4 years old [House Method]
In 2017, the typical mid-range pay for Santa is about $150 per hour [CNBC]
Imported jackets for Santa include a 32% tariff while the pants include a 29.2% tax [NPR]