Sign of deceleration: Hiring 1,500 workers in Locust Grove center, not as strong as last year

Radial plans to pay “pickers, packers and sorters” $17.50 an hour for 40-hour weeks

Radial, a global distribution company, on Tuesday announced plans to hire 1,500 workers to handle holiday orders at its Locust Grove fulfillment center.

While robust, the hiring is less energetic than a year ago, another in a series of signals that the economy is still growing but at a slower pace, signaling the bite of higher interest rates and inflation on spending.

Radial’s expansion, aimed at bulking up for a surge of e-commerce orders over the next three months, will include “pickers, packers and sorters,” most of them working 40 hours a week and making up to $17.50 an hour, according to a company spokeswoman.

The company, based in Pennsylvania but owned by a Belgian firm, has 25 similar centers across the United States and others elsewhere in the world. And while about 125 people work now at the 760,833-square-foot Locust Grove facility now, holiday demand is always dramatically higher, she said.

Yet the surge in jobs is still much more modest than last year’s hiring when Radial added roughly 4,000 seasonal workers. That sense of lower horizons follows news in recent weeks of several large, retail-centric companies slowing their seasonal hiring compared with last year. Walmart is adding thousands of workers, but at a reduced pace compared to 2021. Amazon announced an outright halt to hiring in its retail business for the rest of the year.

Last year the economy was humming, with federal pandemic money still bolstering many households, many workers getting generous raises and interest rates keeping the cost of loans historically low. Since then, the Federal Reserve has launched a rate-raising campaign aimed at squeezing borrowers and slowing the economy, while the Russian invasion of Ukraine triggered several months of record high gas prices.

Although historically, Fed rate hikes have often flipped the economy into a ditch, Fed officials say they would like to tame inflation without causing a painful recession. And so far, hiring and growth have continued, albeit at a slower pace.

Demand for holiday goods is expected to be strong, but far less than a year ago, economists say.

With unemployment rates low, many companies have complained of having trouble finding the workers they need to meet demand. But with the Fed’s efforts starting to undercut growth, the struggle to fill positions may be easing, according to Sabrina Wnorowski, Radial’s chief human resources officer at Radial.

Many people who had left the workforce are being persuaded by higher prices to return, she said.

Much of the most energetic growth of the past several years in Georgia has been in logistics, with many companies — including Amazon — adding distribution and warehouse centers, while ratcheting up wages to attract employees. But Radial’s competitors are not hiring as frenetically as a year ago, Wnorowski said.

Radial handles orders made online for a number of brands, including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Cole Haan, Gymshark and Godiva Chocolatier.

The company was created in the 2016 merger of Innotrac Corp. and the enterprise services unit of eBay. The next year, Radial was acquired by bpost, a Belgian-based logistics and e-commerce provider.