‘A work­ers’ mar­ket’

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - LM OTERO/AP

With hol­i­day hir­ing in full swing, some in­dus­tries find them­selves in a pre­car­i­ous po­si­tion as re­cruiters seek to add to their pay­rolls amid an un­em­ploy­ment rate that is now at a 17-year low of 4.1%.

When UPS lured hol­i­day job seek­ers re­cently to its Colum­bus, Ohio, pack­age sort­ing cen­ter, it turned the dreary process of in­ter­views and back­ground checks into a full-blown party com­plete with candy and movie-ticket give­aways.

Faced with a shrink­ing la­bor pool and a need to fill

95,000 ex­tra jobs this hol­i­day sea­son, the Louisville­based de­liv­ery gi­ant has been scram­bling to find in­no­va­tive ways to tempt po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees — in­clud­ing turn­ing re­cruit­ing ses­sions into cel­e­bra­tions.

It’s not just UPS. As the hol­i­days draw closer and hol­i­day hir­ing is in full swing, in­dus­tries across the board are feel­ing the un­in­tended side ef­fects of a fall­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate— now at a 17-year low of

4.1%. But re­tail, food ser­vices and de­liv­ery, in­dus­tries that are an es­sen­tial part of the hol­i­day grind, are among the most vul­ner­a­ble.

“It’s def­i­nitely a work­ers’ mar­ket,” says Peter Har­ri­son, CEO of Sna­ga­job, an on­line job search en­gine,

who says com­pa­nies on the plat­form are in­creas­ingly strug­gling to find work­ers. “No ques­tion about it. Right now, em­ploy­ers are hav­ing to do ev­ery­thing they can to lure peo­ple in.”

Start­ing with pay. Hooplas and give­aways aside, com­pa­nies know noth­ing can help them sign up work­ers faster than the prospect of more cold hard cash and ben­e­fits:

❚ Tar­get. The re­tailer re­cently an­nounced it’s in­creas­ing the hourly min­i­mum wage to $11, with plans to go as high as $15 an hour by 2020.

❚ J.C. Pen­ney. The de­part­ment store chain will

“Em­ploy­ers are hav­ing to do ev­ery­thing they can to lure peo­ple in.” Peter Har­ri­son CEO of Sna­ga­job

start of­fer­ing paid time off, up to one week a year, to el­i­gi­ble part-time em­ploy­ees in early 2018.

❚ UPS. The de­liv­erer with the brown trucks of­fers weekly re­ten­tion bonuses, up to $200 a week, as a re­ward to em­ploy­ees who work ev­ery day.

As for get­ting out the word, that’s where the par­ties come in. “The com­pe­ti­tion for work­ers means we’ve got to be cre­ative,” says Dan McMackin, a UPS spokesper­son.

Ar­eas with un­em­ploy­ment lev­els be­low the na­tional av­er­age have been hit the hard­est.

In Colum­bus, for in­stance, where UPS held is re­cent hol­i­day re­cruit­ing party, the un­em­ploy­ment rate was 3.8% in Septem­ber, com­pared to the U.S. rate of 4.2% (the na­tional rate dipped to 4.1% in Oc­to­ber).

Last sum­mer, in Fort Collins, Colo., where the un­em­ploy­ment rate was 1.9% in Septem­ber, sec­ond low­est in the na­tion, Ab­bie Lowe, was strug­gling to staff her store, Neigh­bor­hood Liquors. She had a sign on the door for more than a month in ad­di­tion to the ads posted on Craigslist. Lowe got four ré­sumés.

“Typ­i­cally, we had a big­ger pool to se­lect po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees from,” Lowe says.

“But there are jobs ev­ery­where here. Even day la­bor­ers are get­ting jobs all the time. We can’t keep any­one in here.”

The low un­em­ploy­ment rate means com­pa­nies are mak­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary at­tempts to find and re­tain ta­lent. KEITH SRAKOCIC/AP

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