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The Coronavirus Pandemic Hurts Some Industries, Benefits Others


Many industries are furloughing or firing workers, but some are hiring. NPR's Alina Selyukh has the story.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Despite all the shutdowns and lockdowns, Americans still need food and medicine, and that means some companies are actually hiring, at least temporarily - supermarkets like Kroger and Albertsons, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens and retail giants like Amazon and Walmart.


DAN BARTLETT: Not only are we not laying off people, we're actually in a position - we're going to be hiring an additional 150,000 new associates.

SELYUKH: That's Walmart executive Dan Bartlett last week announcing a major hiring push, promising to get some people into new jobs in a matter of hours. Amazon has a similar plan to hire 100,000 new delivery and warehouse workers in the next few weeks to keep up with the big spike in online shopping. Papa John's and Domino's are hiring thousands of cooks, managers and drivers; same at meal kit companies like Blue Apron and grocery delivery platforms like Shipt and Instacart, which says it wants to sign on up to 300,000 delivery gig workers, more than doubling its contract workforce.

DANIEL ZHAO: In transportation and logistics, for example, hiring is actually up 7% month over month from March 13.

SELYUKH: Daniel Zhao is a senior economist at the jobs and recruiting website Glassdoor. He says those transportation numbers account for new hires at warehouses of all kinds, including retail, and new jobs are being posted by local governments and health care organizations.

ZHAO: Basically, call center workers or front desk associates - these are folks who are helping to field questions.

SELYUKH: Some of the companies that are adding new jobs, including Amazon and Instacart, have faced criticism from their current workers, who want protective gear, hazard pay and broader access to paid sick leave. Still, these new jobs are an option for many workers who find themselves suddenly unemployed because of coronavirus, and the companies that are hiring are specifically targeting them.

RUTH MILKMAN: You can imagine that there's an awful lot of people who have lost their normal livelihoods and are desperate to generate some income to support their families.

SELYUKH: Ruth Milkman is a professor of sociology and labor studies at the City University of New York.

MILKMAN: The whole point of paid sick leave is to not force workers to have to choose between their livelihoods and their health or the health of their kids, but these workers are going to be put in that position.

SELYUKH: She says the jobs that are growing fast, many of them are hourly with limited benefits and pay, and of course, they're risky because they involve interacting with other people while most of the country is asked to stay at home and isolate, a reminder that, in times of crisis, some of the lowest-paid jobs become essential.

Alina Selyukh, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.