MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A strong economy combined with low unemployment will likely make it more difficult this year to fill part-time openings.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate is at 3 percent, which is even lower than the national rate of 3.9 percent.

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And as Minnesotans are getting ready to hit stores for the holiday shopping season, retailers anticipate a problem: a shortage of workers.

The words, “We’re Hiring,” are posted on the doors and inside a lot of stores right now.

Target recently announced it plans to hire 120,000 seasonal workers — that’s a 20-percent increase over the last year.

Retail experts say after several years of slumping sales, stores now have a chance to make a big profit, and that means customer service has to be great.

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“If I am a company like Target or Walmart, I make my money in the 4th quarter,” said marketing professor at Carlson School of Management Dr. George John. “They call it Black Friday for that reason. What that means is the 4th quarter is really critical this year because finally, I’ve got a good year. I really want to make money this year.”

Stores are also hiring seasonal workers earlier than they have in years past, and in some cases, paying more. Target says anyone hired after Sept. 16 will begin at $12 an hour as minimum wage.

“They have to,” John said. “Unemployment is down, labor force participation is up. There are fewer people to go around, so you’re going to have to offer more money.”

John says potential applicants should take advantage of these openings.

“You will get employee discounts, a decent wage,” John said. “Apply to a number of places, see who wants you. Don’t wait ’til the season starts before you apply because everything has been moved up.”

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“The consumer can expect fantastic sales this year. So have a good time, don’t overspend, watch your credit cards–but go for it,” John said.