E-commerce boosts holiday hiring | nnbw.com

E-commerce boosts holiday hiring

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Northern Nevada’s emergence as a hub for e-commerce fulfillment is stepping up the pressures on employers to find enough workers to meet demands of the holiday season.

From seasonal giants — the big Amazon distribution center at Fernley, the Toys R Us center at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center — to smaller companies that fill Internet orders for e-retailers, employers are looking for thousands of workers to meet holiday demands.

And the rising demand for seasonal workers comes at a time that the supply of available workers in the region already is tightening.

In August, the most recent period for which figures are available because of the shutdown of federal agencies in October, the jobless rate in the Reno-Sparks area was estimated at 9.1 percent.

That compares with 10.6 percent a year earlier, the state’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation says.

More critically, it means that the number of folks looking for work declined by an estimated 4,100. That’s a 17 percent reduction in the pool of available workers.

The upshot: The staffing agencies that are contracted to fill holiday vacancies are scrambling to find workers.

Intellisource, a Denver-based company that staffs the Zulily distribution center east of Sparks, was running two job fairs last week to woo workers for 200 open seasonal positions for an undisclosed warehouse client in south Reno.

To drum up interest from job seekers, the company advertised on radio stations that target college students at stay-at-home moms and built relations with community groups that might send workers its way.

“It takes an integrated, smart approach,” says Scott Snyder, its vice president for marketing. “We have to work a little harder.”

Reno-based Applied Staffing Solutions, meanwhile, is running a job fair in Stead on Wednesday as it recruits for 140 open positions, many of them seasonal and temporary jobs.

(The job fair runs 1-5 p.m. at 5560 Cocoa Ave. at the Sierra Nevada Job Corps Center.)

The company says that many of the open job openings involve warehouse picking, packing and shipping skills.

But Tom Miller, the company’s director of staffing and recruiting services, says demand for seasonal workers cuts across a wide swath.

Some call centers that handle mail or Internet orders, for instance, are muscling up their staffs for the holiday season.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are hiring, too.

Statewide, the Retail Association of Nevada estimates that retailers will add somewhere between 5,800 and 7,800 positions during this holiday season.

In the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, which accounts for about 15 percent of the retail employment in the state, the association’s estimate would lead to roughly 870 to 1,170 seasonal jobs in stores this year.

Miller says Applied Staffing Solutions is turning to new tools to attract job seekers.

“We are just pounding social media,” he says. “We have to.”

The company’s recruiters work their personal contacts to find candidates, and they mine data that they’ve collected from applicants through the years to match job seekers with open positions.

But at the same time that the pools of available candidate are shrinking, Miller says employers are keeping high standards.

Along with skills and experience, candidates need to pass drug tests and background checks, and provide documents such as diplomas to support their application.

Even the employers who planned ahead and created effective strategies to build a cadre of seasonal workers can’t breathe easy.

Miller says many seasonal employees continue to look for even better jobs — more pay, better working conditions — even after they’ve started at their first seasonal job.

It’s not surprising, Miller says with a shrug.

“After four or five hard years, people need to earn more money.”