As companies shutter and the economy grinds to a halt, Diaz is just one of the many thousands of Americans who have been, or are in danger of being, laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the hospitality industry, massive layoffs are expected in travel, manufacturing, and more. Some experts are predicting that the unemployment rate —
which had been functionally nil before this crisis — could climb as high as 20%, an unprecedented figure in the modern era.
But even as the nation’s automakers stop building cars, airlines park most of their fleets and stadiums shut their doors, other companies are staffing up in a big way.
Facing a crushing surge in demand, companies that provide “essential” services like grocery stores and delivery firms are urgently seeking temporary help.
Amazon is adding 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to keep up with a surge in online shopping.
Walmart has announced it will hire 150,000 new associates. Kroger, a grocer, is hiring 10,000 new employees nationwide, while Safeway is bringing on more than 2,000.
Fittingly, some of the job postings read more like calls to war than hiring notices.
“We are currently experiencing a monumental surge in our sales & foot traffic,” read a March 13 letter from Costco management seeking temporary worker referrals from staff.
But many of the jobs being created amid the pandemic involve working at the front lines of the crisis.
For those who grab hold of one of these economic lifelines, it could mean putting themselves and their loved ones at risk of contracting the potentially deadly illness. “It would be a calculated risk,” says Diaz, who’s trying to find a job before he burns through his four months worth of savings.
As he sees it, we’ll all need people willing to expose themselves to danger to keep the rest of us going. “We need each other more than ever nowadays, and I think there’s going to have to be somebody, a lot of somebodies, who are going to be willing to go out there and engage.”