COVID-19

As millions join unemployment rolls, some retailers are in a hurry to hire

Meghan McCarty Carino Mar 27, 2020
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A global pandemic might seem like an odd time to hire a lot of new workers, but some companies need the extra hands. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
COVID-19

As millions join unemployment rolls, some retailers are in a hurry to hire

Meghan McCarty Carino Mar 27, 2020
A global pandemic might seem like an odd time to hire a lot of new workers, but some companies need the extra hands. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The pandemic shutdown is absolutely hammering a lot of retailers. The CEO of Gap, Sonia Syngal, told The New York Times this week that she expects tens of millions of job losses in the sector.

But some retailers are hiring. Amazon, Walmart, Kroger and CVS are so busy that they’re out to hire armies of temporary workers to manage the surge in demand. Walmart has 150,000 job openings. Amazon has 100,000.

Many retailers do have experience hiring a bunch of temporary workers quickly. They do it every year for the holidays.

“The difference now is you simply have to do vastly more hiring in vastly less time,” said Joel Rampoldt, a retail consultant with Alix Partners. He said Walmart, Amazon and other big employers have well-oiled systems for new hires. But with the increased demand they’re facing, they’ve got to speed them up.

“There simply can’t be the same level of screening that you would normally do,” Rampoldt said.

A hiring process that usually takes weeks is being condensed to less than a day in some cases. Walmart is taking applications by text message and Domino’s Pizza is doing video chat interviews. New workers are starting shifts before employers finish their background checks.

Millions of newly unemployed people are available for work, but Andy Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said some of them may hesitate.

“The jobs they’re asking people to do have this inherent risk that those jobs normally don’t,” Challenger said.

Amazon and Walmart have sweetened their offers by raising the pay for many of the jobs by $2 an hour. Meanwhile, the pandemic means employers have to do a little more work to onboard new workers, according to David Marcotte of Kantar Consulting.

“There is versus previous times an additional layer of training, which is ‘I need to keep you safe,’ ” Marcotte said.

But, he said, with sales at many retailers soaring, the added costs are probably worth it.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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