Here’s who’s hiring for the holidays as online orders surge due to the pandemic

A worker fills boxes to ship at an Amazon fulfillment center, Aug. 1, 2017, in Romeoville. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Job hunters looking for work during the holidays may have better luck delivering merchandise bought online than helping shoppers find the perfect gift.

Shipping companies and e-commerce warehouses say they plan to hire thousands of workers in the Chicago area ahead of the holiday rush. Retailers are staffing up, too, but some say more of those jobs will be behind the scenes, handling online orders.

Few chains have shared details about how many employees they need in stores. They may be waiting to get a better feel for how the season will unfold, said Andy Challenger, vice president at Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“It’s a really uncertain environment. Unemployment is high … and there’s a concern that consumer spending could be down, on top of the fact that bricks-and-mortar retailers are facing issues with people being scared to come into the shops,” he said.

While some jobs have come back, unemployment remains high: 12.6% in the Chicago area last month, compared with 3.8% in August 2019. The $600-a-week federal unemployment benefit that was part of the coronavirus stimulus package has expired, and while Illinois received a grant to extend benefits at $300 a week, proposals for additional federal aid remain stalled in Congress.

Layoffs and pay cuts mean there are more people looking for work this holiday season than in years past, but companies competing for large numbers of workers to handle online orders still could face recruiting challenges, Challenger said.

Warehouses tend to cluster near cities where they compete for employees. Some warehouse jobs also require different skills than a traditional cashier job, like the ability to lift heavy items or experience with technology or power equipment like forklifts and pallet jacks.

“Even though tons of salespeople and cashiers lost jobs, they don’t always have the skill sets companies need in the back of the house,” he said.

The companies recruiting holiday help include:

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SOURCE: Chicago Tribune –