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Millions of people lost jobs or saw their wages severely curtailed last week as many companies shut down or cut back on operations. But the pandemic has also created a spike in demand for critical products and services, causing some of America's biggest employers to scramble to try to hire workers at a time when parts of the country are going into lockdown. Many are forgoing normal hiring procedures to add staff as quickly as possible.

Dollar General will hire as many as 50,000 workers by the end of April as people ordered to stay home clear the bargain chain's shelves and stock up pantries. Dollar General said Monday that most of the jobs will be temporary, but that some may be long term.

"For any individual whose job has been temporarily impacted by the effect of covid-19, we currently have a number of full and part time positions available across our stores, distribution centers and private fleet network," the company said on its website.

PepsiCo, which said it is planning to hire 6,000 new "full-time, full-benefit front-line employees," is having them start immediately, before their background checks and drug screenings are complete.

The food and beverage company wants to get the workers on the job as quickly as possible, as delays start to pile up at medical clinics that process drug tests and in public record offices.

Papa John's is hiring up to 20,000 people with the demand for pizza elevated. The need for new workers is so great, the company said Monday that interviews can turn into punching the clock on the same day. Domino's already announced additional hiring.

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CVS Health also announced Monday that it is looking to fill 50,000 full-time, part-time and temporary roles across the country. Positions include store associates, prescription delivery drivers, distribution center employees and member/customer service professionals. The company is also giving bonuses ranging from $150 to $500 to workers required to be at its facilities.

On Thursday, Walmart, the nation's largest employer, said it was looking to hire 150,000 additional employees in its stores and warehouses through the end of May. That represents a roughly 10% increase in its work force.

To ramp up quickly, the retailer said it was speeding up the hiring process, which normally takes two weeks. Its goal is to place workers in jobs within 24 hours by conducting most of the screening process virtually and making a preliminary job offer without meeting the applicant in person.

Grocery chain Kroger is hiring 10,000 people across its stores and distribution centers. Regional supermarkets including HEB in Texas and Stop & Shop in New England and New York are hiring as well. Amazon is also planning to hire 100,000 additional people to keep up with the crush of online orders.

Retailers and companies in the food and medical supply chain, which are seeing demand soar, are recruiting workers directly from employers such as hotels and restaurants, which have largely been shut down by the pandemic and laid off staffs en masse.

Still, this rapid rise in hiring faces logistical challenges at a time when health officials are urging people to keep their distance from others and, in some states, not to leave their houses. Filling some warehouse jobs, for instance, requires the applicants to show up in person.

"Obviously, there is a bit of a challenge because of social distancing and travel restrictions," said Lowell Randel, vice president for government and legal affairs at Global Cold Chain Alliance, a trade group representing the refrigerated warehouse and delivery industry. "But if you apply to drive a forklift, you need to come in and have your skills assessed."

Walgreens said it was hiring for about 9,500 existing full- and part-time roles in stores across the United States, including pharmacy technicians.

Domino's is hiring thousands of workers, including cooks, managers and drivers. In Chicago alone, the pizza delivery chain was looking to hire 1,000 workers.

"While many local, state, and federal rules are closing dine-in restaurants, the opportunity to feed our neighbors through delivery and carryout continues," Reece Arroyave, a Chicago-area Domino's franchise owner, said in a statement. "We want to make sure we're not only providing food to people, but also delivering opportunity to those who are looking for work."

Lineage Logistics, the largest refrigerated warehousing company in the country, is hiring 2,000 additional workers to meet a roughly 30% jump in demand in recent weeks. But in the age of social distancing, its hiring practices have changed.

Lineage used to do much of its hiring at job fairs at its 290 warehouses. That's no longer possible. Instead, Lineage is screening applicants by phone, and asking them if they have been to any coronavirus hot spots or been in contact with anyone who is sick.

Those who advance are invited in for a one-on-one interview and asked to formally apply. But even then, there are extra precautions.

"They get to keep the pen that they filled out their application with," Sean Vanderelzen, Lineage's chief human resources officer, said in an interview. "We don't want it back."

Information for this article was contributed by David Gelles and Michael Corkery of The New York Times and by staff members of The Associated Press.

Business on 03/24/2020

Print Headline: Grocery stores, pizza chains, Amazon in a hiring frenzy

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