About 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in the final weeks of March. Not all industries are furloughing or laying off employees, though. With surges in demand for groceries, toiletries, and delivery in general during the coronavirus outbreak, many industries are hiring and hundreds of thousands of front-line positions are currently open.
"Employers have the primary responsibility for providing a safe and healthy work environment," says Glorian Sorensen, director of the Center for Work, Health, & Wellbeing at the Harvard School of Public Health. While employees must do what they can to reduce the risk of getting sick, it is still an employer's responsibility to keep their workforce safe.
Here are seven positions in high demand, and what to make sure your prospective employer is doing to reduce your risk of infection. Note that regular breaks for resting and hand washing are relevant for each of these jobs, and many come with their own social distancing challenges.
Pharmacies and general stores are seeing an influx of customers stocking up on medicine, cleaning supplies, and toiletries, so retailers countrywide are in need of people to fill shelves, work the cash registers, and provide customer service.
Hourly wage: Retail associates make $12 per hour on average, according to Indeed.
Current job openings: CVS has announced it will hire 50,000 new employees. Walgreens is looking for 9,500, while 7-Eleven plans to hire 20,000. Among dollar store chains, Dollar General plans to hire 50,000 workers, while Dollar Tree has announced it will hire 25,000. Target also has more than 9,000 positions open countrywide. Apply for jobs at CVS, 7-Eleven, Dollar General, Walgreens, Dollar Tree, and Target on their websites.
What to consider: "A major issue that might be the case in some of those situations," says Sorensen, "would be the contact with the public and the inability to control that." The more contact a person has with others, the more likely they are to be exposed to the virus.
Sorensen recommends that retailers consider how worker schedules are set up to minimize that kind of contact. Are they scheduling employees so that they can do some work before and after the store's doors are open to the public, for example? Are there enough breaks provided so employees can wash their hands? She's also seen some retailers put up plexiglass shields between cashiers and customers to help reduce the cashiers' potential exposure.
Video by Stephen Parkhusrt
Grocers are also seeing a surge in demand. Supermarkets countrywide are looking to hire workers to stock shelves and cashiers to meet customers' needs as they practice social distancing.
Current job openings: Kroger is looking to hire 10,000 new employees, East Coast-based supermarket chain Stop and Shop announced it would hire 5,000 employees, and Aldi has thousands of job openings. Find grocery store positions at Kroger, Stop and Shop, and Aldi's websites, or at sites like Indeed.
What to consider: Like retailers, grocery store associates come into regular contact with customers, heightening their risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Sorensen says practices like strategic scheduling come into play here, too. Ask your prospective employer what their current scheduling policies are and see if they're taking precaution. Trader Joe's and Star Market, for example, are implementing strict rules about the number of customers able to shop in their stores at a time and ensuring a six-foot distance between customers when they wait in line to get in or to pay.
With millions of Americans sheltering in place, delivery drivers are in high demand. They deliver food and packages to homes and transport goods between warehouses and retailers.
Hourly wage: Delivery drivers in the U.S. make an average of $15 per hour, according to Indeed.
Current job openings: Amazon recently announced it would be opening 100,000 full and part-time positions, including those within its delivery network. Find delivery driver jobs on Amazon's website or websites like LinkedIn.
What to consider: "With a delivery driver, you have less potential for interaction with the public," says Sorensen, "so that is one benefit." That said, "there's a high demand for a lot of deliveries, and this kind of pressure may be particularly stressful when there are longer shifts."
Sorensen recommends prospective employees inquire about what kind of system is in place for taking breaks, both for stress relief from the high pressures of delivery at this time and as an opportunity for employees to wash their hands. Though you're not interacting with the public, she says, you're interacting with items that may have been touched by a lot of other people.
Warehouse workers prepare customer orders by packing boxes and ensuring they get shipped correctly. They also take stock of inventory and do maintenance on equipment. Almost every industry needs warehouse workers, but positions in the retail and the food industry are in especially high demand with so many consumers stocking up or ordering online.
Hourly wage: Warehouse workers make an average salary of $15 per hour, according to Indeed.
Current job openings: Walmart recently announced it would be hiring 150,000 more full- and part-time employees, including in their distribution centers. PepsiCo, too, has announced it is hiring 6,000 new employees, among them warehouse workers. Apply for warehouse jobs on Walmart or PepsiCo's websites or on sites like Indeed.
What to consider: Sorensen recommends prospective employees ask about things like "how close are people working with other workers" to ensure social distancing, break systems, and "how much overtime is already in place." With so many warehouses working hard to fill customer orders, employees should find out in advance what their days might look like so they can prepare and how they could be compensated if overtime is required.
With so many people at home, services like Instacart and Shipt, through which designated shoppers do grocery shopping and delivery for a customer, have also seen a massive surge in demand.
Current job openings: Instacart announced it would be hiring 300,000 new workers, and Shipt announced it would be hiring thousands more as well. Apply for jobs at Instacart and Shipt on their websites.
What to consider: When it comes to grocery delivery, "the more separation between workers and customers or clients that you can have," says Sorensen, "the better." Ask your prospective employer what kind of delivery system is in place that could minimize your contact with customers. Here, too, as contractors are handling items that have seen a lot of hands, it behooves a prospective employee to ask about what kind of break system is in place that would allow them to wash their hands frequently.
Line cooks prepare food in places like restaurants and cafes. Many people preferring not to leave the house are now deferring to take-out.
Hourly wage: Line cooks make an average $13 per hour, according to Indeed.
Current job openings: To meet increased demand, Pizza Hut is hiring 30,000 new employees, among them cooks. Papa John's, too, is hiring 20,000 new employees, including pizza makers. Domino's has also said it is looking to hire more pizza makers. Apply for line cook jobs on Pizza Hut, Papa John's, and Domino's websites or on Indeed.
What to consider: "In some cases," like working in a kitchen, "the job simply demands closer quarters," says Sorensen. It's up to the many eateries now operating on a delivery basis, then, to think strategically about how to ensure their cooks aren't putting themselves in danger. If you're considering a job in a kitchen, ask your prospective employer how they're implementing social distancing, such as capitalizing on a break system that would stagger the number of people in the kitchen at a time.
The security industry has continued to hire personnel, filling jobs like security guards, concierges, and vehicle patrol. "During this challenging time, we are providing essential public safety services," says Steve Jones, CEO of security services company Allied Universal. "Our clients, and the public at large, rely on us to keep our communities safe and secure."
Hourly wage: Security guards make an average of $13 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter.
Current job openings: Allied Universal is currently seeking to hire thousands of security personnel nationwide. Apply for jobs in the security industry on Allied's website or at sites like Indeed. Some applicants are offered a job within 24 hours of applying, according to Allied.
What to consider: Here, too, ask your prospective employer what kind of regulations are in place to ensure social distancing, even with clients, says Sorenson. Ask what kind of breaks are offered so guards can wash their hands and what kind of overtime comes into play to ensure they are not overwhelmed by the stresses of the job.
If you're interested in applying to one of these jobs, consider what safety precautions you'll need to take to mitigate your risk, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines: Wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, wash surfaces like phones, and keep at least a six foot distance from people and wear a face mask if you leave the house.
Regardless of the job, one of the most important questions for all applicants to ask about is sick leave. "In the time of this epidemic," says Sorensen, "there is a significant need for paid sick time. If people are not paid when they're sick, they're more likely to come to work sick." That could endanger everyone around them and potentially make themselves even sicker.
Ask your prospective employer what kind of sick leave policies exist both for full and part-time employees. And don't be shy about posing these questions as soon as the interview process, says Dan Teran, co-founder of office management company Managed by Q, which in the past employed hundreds of front-line workers.
"We are dealing with a very serious public health crisis," says Teran, who was also recently part of the team that built stopCOVID, a tool giving essential workers COVID-19 training via text message and WhatsApp. "There is no time for subtlety."
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