Warehouse, parcel operators add thousands of jobs ahead of holidays
Companies are adding tens of thousands of warehousing jobs as they scale up e-commerce fulfillment and distribution capacity ahead of a high stakes fourth quarter.
Warehousing and storage payrolls jumped by 32,200 jobs in September, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.
The jump in a sector that includes online fulfillment centers followed an addition of 34,400 jobs in August and came as retailers and logistics operators say they are planning to hire large numbers of seasonal workers for the coming holidays. Overall warehouse and storage employment by the BLS measure nearly doubled over the past decade, to 1.25 million jobs.
Courier and messenger companies that deliver packages to homes and businesses added 10,300 jobs in September, the seventh straight month of gains. Trucking companies added 4,600 positions.
Those gains are in contrast to the broader U.S. economy, where hiring slowed sharply in September as some pandemic-driven layoffs became permanent. Employers added 661,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7.9%.
The rush of logistics hiring comes as analysts warn that soaring e-commerce demand amid the coronavirus pandemic could strain distribution networks during the holiday season.
“It’s just been one big spike. I think we saw maybe a 500% uptick in e-commerce business since March,” said Jeff Kaiden, chief executive of Capacity LLC, a third-party logistics provider that handles order fulfillment for consumer goods. The company is bringing on 30% more warehouse workers for the peak season than it did last year, he said.
Three-quarters of U.S. consumers said they would do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year, and 43% said they planned to shop online exclusively, according to an August survey of 1,517 people by consulting firm Accenture PLC.
Retailers and logistics companies are staffing up accordingly. Walmart Inc. said last month it plans to hire more than 20,000 seasonal workers for its e-commerce facilities. Target Corp. is keeping its overall seasonal hiring steady with last year, when it added some 130,000 jobs, but is increasing the number of workers who will go to distribution centers and to bolster the retailer’s curbside and in-store pickup of online orders.
XPO Logistics Inc. said it would bring on 10,000 seasonal staff in the U.S., while e-commerce logistics company Radial plans to bring on 25,000 seasonal workers, up 19% from 2019.
Companies are struggling to fill open logistics and distribution jobs despite high unemployment during the pandemic, in part because of worker safety concerns, said Melissa Hassett, vice president of client delivery for ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions RPO, a subsidiary of staffing agency ManpowerGroup Inc.
“Many of the clients do not have enough people to fill their distribution center, and they’re hiring as fast as they can,” she said.
Light-truck and delivery drivers are also in short supply, Ms. Hassett said. “We talk to people every day who have supervisors and seasonal managers out in the trucks,” she said, because they can’t hire enough people.
Delivery giants United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. are bringing on tens of thousands of extra workers this year, as soaring online sales lift package volumes to holiday levels months ahead of the seasonal peak.
“This will be an unprecedented holiday season,” said Satish Jindel, president of ShipMatrix Inc., a software provider that analyzes shipping data. “There are regional parcel carriers that can’t add capacity. They’re turning shippers away, saying let’s talk in 2021.”