For many out-of-work Americans, shop-til-you-drop holiday mania will bring the best gift of all: gainful employment. This time of year, the retail sector creates tens of thousands of seasonal jobs as clerks, delivery people, and merchandise handlers -- and work is work, temporary though it may be.

Stores have responded to lagging sales by slashing their year-long workforce numbers to the tune of a million employees since the start of the recession. But this year, they're doing more hiring for the holidays than we've seen in quite some time.

Toys "R" Us will add some 35,000 workers to handle its projected volume over the coming month. And department store Kohl's will up its staffing by 40,000 temporary employees -- a per-store increase to 35 workers, up from last year's 30.

These higher seasonal workforce figures bode well for holiday sales expectations, and speak to the economy's overall improvement -- something we can all be merry about. Granted, the forecast isn't quite where it was leading up to 2008's recession, and a rebound to those levels won't likely happen for another couple of years. But especially given this year's strong sales start, the general trend is encouraging.

So which retailers have had the best year in the run-up to the holiday season? Perhaps more importantly, will these stocks continue to outperform? (Click here to access free, interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

Here is a list of this year's top performing retail stocks:



Performance Over Last Year

Zumiez (Nasdaq: ZUMZ)

Apparel Stores


Tuesday Morning (Nasdaq: TUES)

Discount, Variety Stores


Finish Line (Nasdaq: FINL)

Apparel Stores


Casual Male Retail Group (Nasdaq: CMRG)

Apparel Stores


Destination Maternity (Nasdaq: DEST)

Apparel Stores


Dillard's (NYSE: DDS)

Department Stores


Foot Locker (NYSE: FL)

Apparel Stores


PriceSmart (Nasdaq: PSMT)

Discount, Variety Stores


Saks (NYSE: SKS)

Department Stores


Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare the market caps of all the stocks mentioned above.

Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Alicia Sellitti do not own shares of any companies mentioned.

Zumiez is a Motley Fool Big Short short-sale selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.