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A grocery worker restocks toilet paper.
REUTERS/Michele Tantussi
All those shelves need stocking.
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The companies that are hiring even as the global economy grinds to a halt

Alison Griswold
By Alison Griswold

Reporter

From our Obsession

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As much of the global economy grinds to a halt, forcing sudden business closures and mass layoffs of employees, certain critical sectors have instead shifted into high-gear. Chief among those hiring are online retailers, supermarkets and online grocers, restaurant delivery firms, and health and health care companies, which are racing to boost staff as demand for their services soars.

Among the biggest employers is Amazon, which in many ways is fulfilling its long-held ambition of becoming the primary shopping destination for millions.

“We’re hiring for 100,000 new roles and raising wages for our hourly workers who are fulfilling orders and delivering to customers during this period of stress and turmoil,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, wrote in an Instagram post on March 21. “We hope people who’ve been laid off will come work with us until they’re able to go back to the jobs they had.”

Supermarkets stock up

Groceries around the world are under siege as panicked shoppers stock their pantries. That’s led to a hiring spree as stores seek thousands of workers to stock shelves, pick goods, deliver to customers, and generally “feed the nation.”

In the UK, where employees involved in food production were included on the government’s list of key workers, grocery chains are hiring thousands of staff to help manage the demand. As of March 18, the share of searches for job openings at large UK supermarkets on job marketplace Indeed was up 318% over the same period last year, Indeed told Quartz.

Discount supermarket Aldi is recruiting 9,000 workers, including 5,000 temporary contracts in stores and distribution centers with an immediate start date. Lidl, another discount grocer, is hiring for 2,500 temporary jobs.

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, is seeking 20,000 temporary workers. Tesco CEO Dave Lewis said in a March 25 update on the company’s website the chain had already hired 12,500 new workers, and would also bring on 8,000 staff as drivers. Tesco, like other UK groceries, has set aside dedicated shopping hours for higher-risk customers, and is busy implementing other safety measures in stores, such as protective screens at checkout counters and floor markers to help customers queue at a safe distance.

In the US, grocery delivery startup Instacart earlier this week announced it would hire 300,000 contract workers over the next three months, more than doubling the size of its staff. At FreshDirect, a privately held grocery delivery firm that focuses on greater New York, sales are up 60% year-over-year, and CEO David McInerney described the company’s workers as “first responders.” FreshDirect is hiring more workers and adding delivery slots to increase service. 

Rodney McMullen, CEO of supermarket chain Kroger, said March 17 that the company hired 2,000 people in the past week and had 10,000 openings across the US. Albertsons, the parent company of grocery brands such as Safeway and Star Market, said March 23 it was “immediately hiring” 30,000 workers and had partnered with major companies including Marriott International and Regal Cinemas to absorb their furloughed or laid off employees.

Remote workers needed

With much of the world now working at homes, companies that make remote work possible are also staffing up. According to data that research firm Thinknum shared with Quartz, global job postings by video chat platform Zoom nearly doubled from Jan. 1 to March 9, from 128 openings to 252. At Slack, a company that makes corporate chat software, job postings jumped 50% over the same period, from 163 to 245.

Healthcare and pharmacy hire

Not surprisingly in a massive public health crisis, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies are hiring.

CVS Health, a $70 billion healthcare conglomerate, plans to hire 50,000 workers for full-time, part-time, and temporary jobs across its stores, delivery services, and customer support operations. CVS has said it will give bonuses to staff who work on site, such as in stores and pharmacies, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Job marketplace ZipRecruiter told Business Insider that US nursing job listings spiked 49% from February to March, listings for medical transporters (people who move patients and medical equipment) were up 124%, and openings for medical technicians jumped 106%.

In the UK, Indeed told Quartz postings increased 7% for medical technicians from Jan. 31 to March 18 and rose 4% for doctors over the same period. Nursing jobs were down 2% over that time, but Indeed said nursing remains the largest share of its UK job listings, accounting for roughly 10% of openings on its site.

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