NEW YORK (AP) — The nation's retailers boosted holiday hiring to the highest level in six years despite worries about the economy, Superstorm Sandy and the presidential election, according to an analysis of government job data by a leading outplacement consultancy.

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 retailers added 728,300 jobs, 10.3 percent more than the same-three month period in 2011, when merchants added 660,200 extra workers, according to Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The retail jobs added for the holiday 2012 season marks the strongest year-end hiring surge since 2006, when employment in the retail sector increased by 746,900.

John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said that holiday hiring in the retail industry was "remarkable" for a several reasons.

"More people are working, but many are still under-employed, and as a result, wages have remained stubbornly low," he said in a statement. "So spending power this year was not necessarily greater than a year ago. Additionally, more people are shopping online, where increased holiday demand is more easily met without adding a lot of seasonal workers. Yet, despite these factors, brick-and-mortar retailers moved forward with increased hiring."

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