Shippers ramping up for seasonal hiring
Holiday shoppers may already be making gift lists and checking them twice, but for Portland-area shipping companies tasked with making sure those packages make it to their destinations on time, the push is on to find seasonal workers. A lot of them.
Hiring hundreds, or even thousands, of temporary workers is always a major undertaking for companies like FedEx, UPS and Amazon. But this year comes with an added challenge — Oregon is experiencing record-low unemployment.
Since May of this year, the state's unemployment rate steadily decreased from 4.1 percent to 4 percent in June and 3.9 percent in July. In August, the rate hit 3.8 percent, the lowest since the state started tracking comparable numbers back in 1976. September unemployment numbers are schedule to be released Oct. 16.
FedEx is aware that it's a tight job market both in Oregon and across the country — the national unemployment rate hit 3.9 percent in August.
The company recently issued a call to fill 700 seasonal positions in the ground division in the Portland area. It also is looking to hire 100 people for permanent, full-time positions in its local Express division. While the majority of open positions are for package handlers, it also needs to fill some customer service and courier slots in order to handle a holiday volume that company spokesman Jonathan Lyons said is expected to be double the average daily volume of 14 million packages per day.
With an eye toward wooing enough workers for the holiday rush, seasonal package handler positions are scheduled to provide flexibility for workers. The positions run through January for shifts that usually range between two and four hours. But there are often opportunities for holiday help to stay on for longer runs, Lyons said.
FedEx also tempts seasonal workers with competitive wages and perks. Package handlers, even seasonal ones, are eligible for a wide range of benefits — including medical, dental, vision and holiday pay — once they meet certain eligibility requirements. Lyons said.
UPS plans on holding 170 hiring events across the country on Oct. 19 to fill a total of 100,000 seasonal positions, Elizabeth Kohen, a spokesman for the company, told the Business Tribune in an email.
Two of those events will be held in Portland from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 9601 N.E. Alderwood Road and from 1 to 5 p.m. at 6177 N.E. Basin. The company is looking for package handlers, delivery and tractor-trailer drivers, and driver helpers for 2,400 local slots — both seasonal and full time.
Amazon, meanwhile, is looking to fill approximately 2,000 positions for both permanent and seasonal workers, Amazon spokeswoman Lauren Lynch said.
While the open positions are located at customer fulfillment centers and delivery facilities around the Portland-metro area, a significant number are located in the company's Troutdale fulfillment center. Opened earlier this year, the facility features the latest technology, Lynch said.
Amazon is aware of Oregon's low unemployment numbers. But rather than try to compete with shipping companies like FedEx and UPS, Amazon prefers to focus on providing what it considers good opportunities for seasonal workers, Lynch said.
A minimum wage of $15 company-wide for hourly workers goes into effect Nov. 1, Lynch said. Amazon also makes health care benefits available to seasonal workers once they work a certain number of days. For permanent workers, those benefits kick in on the first day of employment.
For people looking to test drive employment with the company, seasonal work can provide the perfect opportunity.
"We're always interested in having people stay on," Lynch said, adding that it has produced a video highlighting an Amazon vice president who started as a seasonal worker.