Stores fac­ing hir­ing crunch

Re­tail­ers of­fer­ing near his­toric perks to meet hol­i­day staffing needs

The Dallas Morning News - - Business - Christo­pher Rugaber and Anne D’innocenzio, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Com­pa­nies that de­pend on hol­i­day sea­son sales need more workers at a time when the ranks of the un­em­ployed have dwin­dled to their low­est level since the re­ces­sion.

WASHINGTON — Across the coun­try, Amer­ica’s re­tail­ers and ship­ping com­pa­nies are look­ing hap­pily for­ward to a ro­bust hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son. There’s just one con­cern: Who will stock the shelves, pack the or­ders and ring up cus­tomers?

The U.S. job mar­ket is the tight­est it’s been in five decades, con­sumer con­fi­dence is near an 18-year high and on­line shop­ping is surg­ing. Com­pa­nies that de­pend on hol­i­day sea­son sales need more workers at a time when the ranks of the un­em­ployed have dwin­dled to their low­est level since the re­ces­sion.

En­vi­sion­ing an even tougher strug­gle than they’ve had in re­cent years, many com­pa­nies are tak­ing steps they’ve not tried be­fore. More of them are of­fer­ing higher pay. They’re hold­ing na­tional hir­ing days. They’re dan­gling bonuses. They’re pro­vid­ing more full-time, rather than part-time, work. Some ware­hous­ing com­pa­nies that fear they still won’t be able to fill enough jobs, are turn­ing to au­to­ma­tion.

“I can’t re­mem­ber the last time it was this tight,” said Tony Lee, a vice pres­i­dent at the So­ci­ety for Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment. “You are go­ing to see a real bat­tle for sea­sonal em­ploy­ees.”

At 3.7 per­cent, the un­em­ploy­ment rate is at a 49-year low, and the gov­ern­ment says a record 6.9 mil­lion job open­ings are be­ing ad­ver­tised — more than the num­ber of un­em­ployed Amer­i­cans.

With more job seek­ers able to choose among em­ploy­ers, many com­pa­nies have rushed to be­gin their sea­sonal hir­ing ear­lier than be­fore. Kohl’s, the na­tion­wide dis­count chain, with 1,100 stores, tried to get a jump on its ri­vals by ad­ver­tis­ing sea­sonal jobs back in late June.

“We are hir­ing sea­sonal as­so­ciates ear­lier than ever,” said Ryan Fester­ling, Kohl’s head of hu­man re­sources.

UPS is hold­ing its first na­tion­wide job fair next week. In 170 lo­ca­tions, ap­pli­cants can have in­ter­views on the spot, and driver can­di­dates can sched­ule a road test.

The At­lanta com­pany had been caught off guard last year when early hol­i­day ship­ments swamped its net­work. On its job fair day — which it’s dub­bing “Brown Fri­day”— UPS hopes to hire up to 40,000 of the more than 100,000 sea­sonal workers it will need.

Tar­get wants to hire 120,000 sea­sonal workers, 20 per­cent more than last year. The com­pany has raised its start­ing wage by a dol­lar to $12 an hour, and is of­fer­ing a new perk: It will ran­domly se­lect one hourly worker at each store and dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter to re­ceive a $500 gift card and $500 do­na­tion to a lo­cal com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion of their choice.

Angie Thompson, a Tar­get spokes­woman, said the higher wage and other in­duce­ments ap­pear to be pay­ing off. Ap­pli­ca­tions jumped 20 per­cent in the first week af­ter they were an­nounced com­pared with the same pe­riod last year.

In 2017, Tar­get raised its min­i­mum hourly pay by $2, to $11, which it says helped pro­duce 60 per­cent more ap­pli­cants. The com­pany is fur­ther rais­ing its min­i­mum wage, in stages, to $15 by 2020.

Yet Ama­zon beat it to the punch just last week by an­nounc­ing that it would boost its start­ing hourly wage to $15 on Nov. 1.

“It’s an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture growth of the com­pany and to en­sure that we can con­tinue to hire, re­tain, and de­velop the best tal­ent for years to come,” said Dave Clark, Ama­zon’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of world­wide op­er­a­tions.

Wal­mart plans to man­age the hol­i­day rush by pro­vid­ing more hours to its part-time workers, a step it im­ple­mented just two years ago. Some stores may hire ad­di­tional sea­sonal em­ploy­ees, it said.

“There has been a shift be­cause the job mar­ket is so strong,” said An­drew Flow­ers, an econ­o­mist at In­deed. “To find workers, you pretty much have to of­fer them a full-time job.”

UPS is hold­ing its first na­tion­wide job fair next week. In 170 lo­ca­tions, ap­pli­cants can have in­ter­views on the spot, and driver can­di­dates can sched­ule a road test.

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