The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically recasted the United States labor force.
Beyond forcing record-high levels of unemployment, the health crisis has changed the types of jobs available to Americans. According to industrial staffing agency PeopleReady, three-fifths of consumers plan to shop less in stores this holiday season because of COVID-19 — leading retailers to increase hiring efforts in areas of their businesses that can support surging online orders and services such as contactless curbside pickup.
“We anticipate seeing businesses ramping up with a higher demand for e-commerce-related temporary positions, especially those in packing, shipping and production,” PeopleReady president Taryn Owen said in a statement. “Job seekers just need to know what types of jobs are in demand and should consider tapping into digital platforms to connect with those jobs more efficiently.”
Analyzing thousands of job postings in the U.S., the firm found that the most in-demand jobs this holiday season include: warehouse associates, like forklift operators, as well as shipping and receiving workers; customer service representatives; production workers, such as packaging and material handlers; stockers and order fillers; and retail workers, including truck loaders and unloaders.
Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Gap Inc. are among the major nationwide chains that are boosting their hiring numbers due to heightened digital demand: Three weeks ago, Walmart announced plans to employ 20,000 people for seasonal jobs at its e-commerce fulfillment centers, while Dick’s Sporting Goods said last week that it expects to hire 9,000 workers for its stores and distribution centers. Although it did not specify the number of employees it intends to hire, Gap and Old Navy’s parent firm shared that it would staff up its packing, merchandise assembly, shipment and customer service departments.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American employers added a disappointing 661,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point to 7.9%. (Economists had predicted a gain of 870,000 jobs.) It’s the highest the jobless rate has been ahead of a presidential election since the government started tracking the data in 1948.
This latest report follows another study this month that suggested that many retailers with ambitious hiring plans this year face a new hurdle in finding qualified and interested candidates to fill these roles.
A Korn Ferry report indicates that nearly half (47%) of retailers are having a tough time attracting employees for the upcoming holiday season. Researchers surveyed more than 50 major retailers in late September and learned that while nearly a third (29%) of them are offering incentives to new hires — such as bonuses, premium pay and increased employee discounts — some firms are struggling to lure in candidates.