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New York — Macy’s plans to hire about 86,000 seasonal holiday workers nationwide to bolster its stores, call centers and distribution hubs. That number represents a 3.6 percent increase from a year ago.

The department store chain, which also operates Bloomingdale’s, said Monday that the growth is being fueled by its expanding online business. This year, about 10,000 of the total 86,000 seasonal workers will be based in eight distribution center across the country. Last year, that figure was 7,000, the company said.

A store’s hiring plans can indicate its expectations for the holiday shopping season, which accounts for 20 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

The hiring plans by retailers so far this year suggests rising optimism about the holiday season.

A string of retailers as well as the shipping companies UPS and FedEx have said they plan to boost holiday hiring this year.

UPS was caught off guard last year by spiking online orders, particularly from Amazon.com.

After announcing plans to hire 55,000 seasonal workers, UPS hired 30,000 more. The company this year said it would be hiring 95,000 people to handle the load. FedEx plans to hire more than 50,000 seasonal workers, or 10,000 more than last year.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest private employer, plans to hire 60,000 temporary workers, nearly a 10 percent increase over last year.

Kohl’s plans to hire more than 67,000 seasonal workers, a 15 percent increase over last year. It expects to hire an average of 50 associates per store, up 25 percent from a year ago.

Still, some merchants say they’ll keep their holiday hiring steady with last year’s level.

Target Corp. said it will hire 70,000 seasonal workers, even with 2013.

Shares of Macy’s Inc., based in Cincinnati, are down slightly in premarket trading, part of a broader sell-off in U.S. markets.

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