Scram­ble for hol­i­day work­ers al­ready near­ing fever pitch

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - Business - By Christo­pher Ru­gaber and Anne D'in­no­cen­zio

WASH­ING­TON — Com­pa­nies that de­pend on hol­i­day sea­son sales will 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 in re­cent years, many are tak­ing steps they've not tried be­fore to re­cruit sea­sonal work­ers like of­fer­ing higher pay, dan­gling bonuses and pro­vid­ing more full-time, rather than part­time, work. Some ware­hous­ing com­pa­nies that fear they still won't be able to fill enough jobs, are turn­ing to au­to­ma­tion.

Mean­while, 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.

“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 49year 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.

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

Sak­e­ria Craw­ford, who will start a start a sea­sonal pack­age-han­dling job with UPS next month, will earn about $13 an hour — the most she's ever made.

“I'm very, very happy that I even have the op­por­tu­nity,” said Craw­ford, 24, of At­lanta who has a 3-yearold son. “I need some­thing sta­ble.”

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. Ap­pli­ca­tions jumped 20 per­cent in the first week af­ter they were an­nounced com­pared with the same pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to Angie Thomp­son, a Tar­get spokes­woman.

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.

Ama­zon, the na­tion's sec­ond-largest pri­vate em­ployer af­ter Wal­mart, says it wants to hire ap­pli­cants quickly. Its on­line job ads stress not what is re­quired but what isn't: “No re­sume.

No in­ter­view.” Mean­while, Wal­mart plans to man­age the hol­i­day rush by pro­vid­ing more hours to its part­time work­ers, a step it im­ple­mented just two years ago.

In­deed, re­tail­ers are post­ing far more full-time jobs com­pared with last year, and fewer part-time po­si­tions, ac­cord­ing to re­search by In­deed, a job­list­ing web­site.

The pro­por­tion of re­tail jobs that are part time, like sales as­so­ciates at cloth­ing stores, plum­meted this year com­pared with 2017.

With lesser re­sources, smaller re­tail­ers are strug­gling to keep up with the higher pay and greater perks. Steve Fusek, who owns Fusek's True Value Hard­ware in In­di­anapo­lis, says he had al­ready found it a chal­lenge to find work­ers who­could re­li­ably showup on time. Mak­ing mat­ters worse, his store is just 10 miles from an Ama­zon ware­house.

Sean McCart­ney, an ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent, said Ra­dial raised hourly pay for its hol­i­day work­ers in four more mar­kets than it did last year, though he wouldn't say which ones. The com­pany is also of­fer­ing bonuses of $1,000 or more in the most com­pet­i­tive mar­kets to those who work dur­ing the cru­cial “Black Fri­day” week­end.

MARK LENNI­HAN/AP

A UPS em­ployee loads pack­ages onto a truck May 9, 2017, at a com­pany fa­cil­ity in New York.

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