Thousands of new jobs — most of them temporary —are coming to Long Island at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has led to record numbers of unemployment claims. Supermarkets, big-box retailers and chain pizzerias say they are ramping up hiring to meet the sudden demand of consumers planning for an extended stay at home.
As people purchase in bulk and look more toward delivery options, companies such as CVS, Walmart and Amazon are hiring more than a thousand workers in the area to help stock shelves, staff warehouses and handle deliveries.
National pizza chains Domino’s and Papa John’s are seeking hundreds of workers locally to meet the new delivery demand while supermarkets such as Stop & Shop, Stew Leonard’s and Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace have open positions.
“With the influx of customers, we are really working hard to sanitize our shelves and restock everything,” said Jillian Gundy, a spokesperson for Farmingdale-based Uncle Giuseppe’s. “We just need employees to keep up with everything.”
Experts say the jobs won’t make up for the lost income experienced by workers across many industries. Still, these new jobs represent a silver lining in an otherwise bleak economic situation.
“Think of it like a Christmas hiring spree,” Hofstra economics professor Martin Melkonian said.
“Certain businesses now find themselves in great demand, at least for a while,” he added. “It’s not going to offset the jobs that are lost from this crisis, but at least it’s something.”
Consumer options were limited a week ago when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said only businesses deemed essential can remain open while authorities try to curtail the virus’ spread. That has led to an increased demand at stores that remain open, carry an array of supplies and offer delivery.
“Businesses in many ways were caught unprepared and they are now responding to the surge of demand of customers who are saying, ‘I want everything that can possibly be delivered sent to my home,’” said Stony Brook professor Stacey Finkelstein, who studies consumer behavior.
The companies that are hiring say they expect high interest in the jobs, at least partly because of the many people who are suddenly out of work.
At Stew Leonard’s in East Meadow, an open cashier position last week received more than 90 applications, which is about five times more than the normal amount of interest, spokeswoman Meghan Bell said.
Europastry, a bread-making company with production facilities in Ronkonkoma and Bayport, is looking for 75 production workers in order to replenish empty shelves at retail stores across Long Island.
The company, which employs about 450 at its two area facilities, is seeking assembly workers, mechanics and machine operators, according to Micheline Messler, director of human resources.
“We need them so quickly, we can’t hire them fast enough,” she said. “I know there are companies that are laying people off. We’re definitely in desperate need to get people at both of our facilities.”
Messler said she has reached out to a company that laid off 90 workers in hopes of recruiting them, following a hiring trend taking place nationally.
When CVS announced a nationwide hiring spree of 50,000 this week, the drug store chain said it is working with hotel chains Marriott and Hilton to hire their furloughed employees.
CVS’s website listed nearly 1,000 open positions on Long Island, from warehouse workers to pharmacists.
“We’re a critical resource for the health care prescriptions and supplies on Long Island,” CVS spokesperson Tara Burke said. “I want to stress we’ll continue to be there.”
CVS also is among the companies that have announced they are providing cash bonuses and additional benefits to workers who are already on the job.
Stop & Shop union workers are receiving a 10% raise during the outbreak and two additional weeks of paid leave if they get sick during this stretch. Other companies that announced they are providing extra pay and benefits to workers include Amazon, Target and BJ’s Wholesale Club.
Experts said companies are rewarding employees to entice them to stay on the job during a tough time while also signalling to the public that they treat their employees well -- especially when they are most taxed.
“Consumers care a lot about how a firm treats its workers,” said Finkelstein, the Stony Brook professor. “There are many consumers that see the companies that don’t take care of their workers, especially at a time like this, and they choose to not go with that company when they have the option to go elsewhere.”
Some companies that are hiring:
Dollar General: careers.dollargeneral.com
Papa John's: jobs.papajohns.com
Stew Leonard's: stewleonards.com/work-at-stews/
Stop & Shop: stopandshop.com/our-careers/
Uncle Giuseppe's: uncleg.com/careers/