Americans suddenly out of work because of COVID-19 are filing for unemployment in unprecedented numbers, but a bright spot on the employment front is that some businesses are hiring, both for short-term and long-term jobs.
With some states closing nonessential businesses, and even some essential ones shutting down as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, workers who thought they had a secure job just weeks ago are struggling to pay the bills and find steady income.
They may find employment relief anywhere from retail stores to delivery services to something in the virtual world.
Meanwhile, businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and more have scrambled to put together resources for finding jobs and as well as accessing unemployment compensation, managing debt and other related hardship associated with the crisis.
What Is an ‘Essential’ Business?
Some of what’s essential is obvious – health care, for instance, and public safety. But a lot of big box stores, convenience stores, car dealerships and others that may not seem essential are also open.
Most state and municipal governments are using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security March 19 guidance on essential services. Generally, the guidelines include “a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability.”
The department lists a variety of essential industries:
- Staffing operations centers
- Businesses that maintain and repair critical infrastructure
- Call centers
- Financial institutions
- Medical and health care
- Information technology systems
- Food and agriculture
- Transportation and logistics
- Law enforcement
- Public works
“Essential” takes into account what people need for daily living. Aside from food and finances, that includes transportation, so auto and truck dealerships can remain open. Big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, which sell products for construction and home repair and other necessary items, also comply. Walmart, Target and other department stores or convenience stores that have pharmacies or sell food, are included. Feed stores and hardware stores are also open.
More specialized retail stores that focus more on one type of item, like clothing or furniture, are nonessential.
The federal list is advisory, and individual states may have different rules.
Even if a business is considered essential, many of the jobs may still be eliminated. Restaurants that can only provide takeout to limit physical contact may find, in many parts of the country, that’s not enough revenue to stay open. Banks have closed their lobbies, and in many places some branches, and are using drive-ups and electronic banking.
Businesses that Are Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic
Businesses that are hiring are some of the obvious ones you see on TV every day – supermarkets, for instance, and health care support jobs, delivery services and businesses that have delivery as part of their business plan.
Others that provide virtual services, rather than in-person ones, particularly those with platforms that help other businesses operate virtually, are also seeing an uptick.
The National Retail Federation as of March 27 listed 77 companies that are hiring, most nationwide, some regionally. While some of the jobs can be done from home, others are at company locations.
Some of the jobs offered nationally are:
- Amazon, which is hiring 100,000 warehouse and delivery drivers.
- Big box, smaller-store retail chains, pharmacies and convenience stores are looking for cashiers, stocking clerks, ecommerce employees and more; among those hiring are Costco, Home Depot. Ikea, Lowe’s, Target, Walmart, Ace Hardware, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, CVS, Walgreens and 7-Eleven.
- Supermarket chains Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are looking for not only in-store workers, but also customer service.
- Dominos, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut are looking for delivery drivers, supply chain centers and customer service staff.
- Food delivery services like Instacart and Blue Apron have positions.
- Package delivery companies FedEx, FHI and UPS are hiring package handlers, drivers, and other positions.
Some other national companies that may not be on jobseekers’ radar are also looking to add staff:
- Advantage Solutions, a national retail marketing company, is hiring retail merchandising and in-store support personnel.
- GE Healthcare, a technology and data company, is hiring materials technicians, production team leads and material handlers.
- Liveops, a cloud-based call center, is looking for work-from-home call center agents.
- Outschool, which offers classes online for kids aged 3 to 18, is looking for teachers who can work from home.
- Slack, the digital office communications company, has positions in accounting, analytics, business development, customer experience, marketing.
- S. Census has positions for census takers, census field supervisors, clerks.
- Zoom, the online meeting software company, has positions in customer care, engineering, finance and legal.
Jeff Moriarty, a marketing consultant with more than 30 clients in numerous industries, said that nutrition companies and health food stores are also hiring. “With consumers looking for any sort of supplement that can support a stronger immune system, nutrition companies are getting swamped with customers,” he said. “Two clients specifically have doubled their work force during this time to keep up with demand.”
Coronavirus Jobs Outside the Box
Employers are thinking outside the box to fill positions fast, and those looking for jobs should be thinking outside the box too.
For instance, Great Falls Marketing call center in Auburn, Maine, has changed its application requirements in order to fill 100 spots fast, Steve Mondor, vice president of sales and marketing, told the Lewiston Sun-Journal.
“The rules for being an agent have changed,” he said. “There were rules in the past that you had to have a room where you can shut the door, you couldn’t live by a railroad track, you couldn’t have a pet or a dog. Those rules are a little more lax now, obviously.” The company is training virtually, rather than onsite, and the jobs will likely be long-term, he said.
Meg Marrs, of K-9 of Mine, a dog care resource company based in Massachusetts, is also hiring.
“Any digital publications or websites that are content-based will be looking to hire writers,” Marrs said. “Content is the fuel that runs the digital marketing space, so if you can write great online content, they’ll always be demand for your skills.”
She said video-creation skills are also in demand.
“We’re actually in the process of scouting out some YouTubers in our industry to potentially make videos for us,” she said. “If you have film or video editing skills, there are definitely plenty of job opportunities out there for you.
“These jobs can be short-term, but more often they are long-term, especially in online publications that are committed to growing and expanding their content offering,” she said. “My advice is that instead of going after bigger sites like Vox and Buzzfeed, try targeting smaller niche sites that focus on an area of expertise that you have experience with. Send along some targeted samples and you could very easily find yourself with a new remote gig.”
Resources for Finding Jobs
Just because jobs are available doesn’t mean it’s a snap finding and getting them. Fortunately, a lot of resources have sprung up to help the newly and unexpectedly out of work.
The U.S. government’s official benefits website, benefits.gov, has resources both for job-seekers and those who need other support. The site has an easy-to-fill-out questionnaire and also links to benefits in every state.
Individual states’ Department of Labor is also a place all those looking for jobs should check. Most states have a page dedicated to the coronavirus outbreak and links to resources.
The U.S. Department of Labor also has a page with resources, FAQs, information on paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19 and more.
Indeed.com, the online hiring site, also has a page, which includes tips on resume-writing, how to be part of an effective video job interview, how and where to file for unemployment benefits, guides specific to parents and more.
Ways to Stay Financially Afloat
Those without a job need to keep a roof over their head and eat as the bills pile up.
The federal government’s stimulus package is offering some financial relief from the coronavirus shutdowns, but those that are unemployed will likely need more.
The first thing those who’ve lost their job because of COVID-19 should do is file for unemployment. Many states are streamlining the process.
Immediately eliminate unnecessary expenses. Go through the past couple months of spending – online banking and use of cards makes that easy – and cross out everything that is a “want” not a “need” and take them out of your budget.
Consider a Debt Management Program
If your feeling the pressure of your debt load, don’t make things worse by putting all your bills on credit cards. This also may be a good time to contact a credit counselor. A nonprofit credit counseling service can help you set up a budget and possibly enter a debt management program, for both short-term and long-term results.
While it won’t be a quick fix – most debt management programs take three to five years – it will tighten your budget and help you manage your debt load. The credit counselor will help you figure out the best way to deal with debt and come up with one manageable monthly payment.
It may not be right for everyone – those in the program have to be able to make the monthly payment and still provide for essential living.
But for those whose pocketbook is hit hard by COVID-19, it’s something to consider.