American workers are hoping that the tight pandemic labor market will translate into better pay. It might just mean robots take their jobs instead.
Labor shortages and rising wages are pushing U.S. business to invest in automation. A recent Federal Reserve survey of chief financial officers found that at firms with difficulty hiring, one-third are implementing or exploring automation to replace workers. In earnings calls over the past month, executives from a range of businesses confirmed the trend.
Domino’s Pizza Inc. is “putting in place equipment and technology that reduce the amount of labor that is required to produce our dough balls,” said Chief Executive Officer Ritch Allison.
Walmart said Monday it has started using fully driverless trucking in its online grocery business, aiming to increase capacity and reduce inefficiencies.
Walmart and Silicon Valley start-up Gatik said that, since August, they’ve operated two autonomous box trucks — without a safety driver — on a 7‑mile loop daily for 12 hours. The Gatik trucks are loaded with online grocery orders from a Walmart fulfillment center called a “dark store.” The orders are then taken to a nearby Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart is headquartered.
The program began in December 2020 after getting approval from the Arkansas State Highway Commission. The safety driver was pulled over the summer. The partnership is focused on the so-called middle mile — the transport of goods within the supply chain most often from a warehouse to a fulfillment center or a warehouse to a retailer.
U.S. companies are downsizing the hiring process.
Beauty product retailer The Body Shop is dropping educational requirements and background checks for job applicants. United Parcel Service Inc. is making some job offers in as little as 10 minutes. CVS Health Inc. no longer requires college graduates to submit their grades.
In a labor market where job openings outnumber applicants, companies are brainstorming how to get more candidates in the door and to the floor. The hiring overhaul signals a potentially broad rethink of job qualifications, a change that could help millions of people enter jobs previously out of reach, according to economists and workforce experts.
Macy’s is offering referral bonuses of up to $500 for each friend or family member that employees recruit to join the company. Walmart is paying as much as $17 an hour to start and has begun offering free college tuition to its workers. And some Amazon warehouse jobs now command signing bonuses of up to $3,000.
Retailers, expecting the holiday shopping season to be bustling once again this year after being upended by the coronavirus in 2020, are scrambling to find enough workers to staff their stores and distribution centers in a tight labor market. It is not proving easy to entice applicants to an industry that has been battered, more than most, by the pandemic’s many challenges, from fights over mask wearing to high rates of infection among employees. Willing retail workers are likely to earn larger paychecks and work fewer hours, while consumers may be greeted by less inventory and understaffed stores.
“Folks looking to work in retail have typically had very little choice — it’s largely been driven by geography and availability of hours,” said Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University’s business school. “Now they can pick and choose who’s got the highest, best benefits, bonuses and hourly rates. And as we’ve seen, the escalation has been striking.”
Airlines are poised for their busiest year of pilot hiring in more than three decades as the industry tries to restock a workforce reduced during the pandemic and strained by a quick rebound in travel.
Travelers returned in force this year, and the boom is expected to continue as international borders reopen and corporations send workers back out on the road. After seeking to conserve cash by urging thousands of pilots to retire early, airlines are now on an unparalleled hiring spree.
Major U.S. carriers are on track to hire around 4,200 pilots this year and more than 9,000 next year according to FAPA.aero, a Nevada-based career and financial adviser for professional pilots. That would be the busiest year for pilot hiring in more than three decades, according to FAPA’s figures. In 2019, when airlines were hiring at a rapid clip, major U.S. carriers hired about 5,000 pilots.
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