While layoffs are reaching epic levels, many grocery stores are busy. Among the stores that are hiring is Publix. Here, Dominick Ebwele, working the deli at the Shamrock Plaza Publix near Decatur. (CONTRIBUTED BY OLIVIA KING)

Amid tidal wave of coronavirus layoffs, some companies hire in Georgia

Shut-down companies and shut-in consumers are bleeding the Atlanta economy of jobs, but there are places where more workers are needed.

Despite a wave of coronavirus-linked layoffs, hiring has continued at many large retailers that are besieged by customers, as well as the companies farther back on the supply chain that make, warehouse and deliver the products that are most in demand at the stores. Many consumers are stockpiling goods in case they get sick and can’t venture out.

For staffing companies, it’s schizophrenic, said Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Duluth-based Hire Dynamics, which places thousands of workers around the Southeast.

“Yesterday afternoon I had one call, where they said they were closing for at least two weeks,” she said. “Then I jumped on another call and they said, ‘How many people can you send me right now?’”

Still, most clients are cutting back, she said.

Nationally, a tidal wave of job cuts has followed the closure of restaurants and offices, the cancellation of sports events and conferences and the slashing of travel.

Unemployment is feared to be headed to historic levels.

Filings for unemployment insurance in Georgia were up at least 400% this week, according to the state Department of Labor. The numbers were even more grim in some other states.

But in a $20 trillion-a-year U.S. economy, the radical shift of people’s habits means that some sectors will see an increase in demand – even if that surge is provisional.

Few companies are committing to full-time employees, according to Wallace.

However, many firms have orders they need filled right now, she said. “They need contract staffing to fill the void. They don’t know where they will be in 30 days, three months, in six months. They don’t know how long they will need those people.”

The job market began turning a couple weeks ago as the impact of the coronavirus was finally being felt, said Atlanta-based career counselor Al Smith.

He had two clients land sales jobs at a national moving company, while several others got jobs in technology, he said. “On the other hand, I had a client start with a company on a Wednesday a couple weeks ago. On Friday of that week there was a staff meeting saying they were instituting a hiring freeze.”

Much of the demand is in stores that have been jammed with worried consumers looking for hand sanitizer or staples like toilet paper, paper towels and bread.

Walmart announced plans to hire 150,000 people through the end of May to work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and warehouses centers. About 5,600 of those positions will be in Georgia, the company said.

Publix is also hiring for its stores, as well as warehousing and distribution, according to spokeswoman Maria Brous.

Kroger too is hiring, according to spokesman Felix Turner. Nationally, Kroger is adding more than 10,000 positions. Locally, several hundred hires are planned.

Farther up the supply chain from the stores is Americold, an Atlanta-based firm that owns and operates temperature-controlled facilities where food is stored. A number of those sites are in metro Atlanta and north Georgia, where the company has 1,200 employees, said spokeswoman Angie Hansen.

“We are currently hiring for positions at our warehouses and at our corporate headquarters,” she said.

Goodwill of North Georgia, which offers guidance to job seekers, has seen surging demand all along that supply chain, including stores, warehouses – like Amazon – and other logistics, said Tenee Hawkins, the organization’s spokeswoman.

Goodwill’s career centers last year placed 25,000 people, she said.

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