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Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

BizWorthy: Despite Massive Layoffs, Some Charlotte Businesses Are Scrambling To Hire During Pandemic

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Grocery jobs are in high demand amid the coronavirus crisis.

More than 300,000 unemployment claims have been filed in North Carolina since mid-March and nearly all them are related to the coronavirus.    

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It’s not clear how many workers in Mecklenburg County have been laid off because of the pandemic. While many businesses in the Charlotte area are cutting positions, some are actually scrambling to fill jobs that are now in demand because of changes brought by the virus. For more on the state of Charlotte’s business community amid COVID-19, we turned to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: You did a check to see what jobs are in demand right now in Charlotte. So what did you find?

Tony Mecia: Yeah. Marshall, you know, we often think, OK, look, this is hitting everybody. Everybody's laying people off. Nobody's hiring. That's actually not true. I mean, you do have obviously a lot of layoffs — big numbers of layoffs, as you mentioned: 300,000 in the state. The workforce is about 5.1 million. I mean, that's a pretty significant number. But you do have a number of companies and industries where there are some bright spots. Obviously, you know, you think about delivery, you see a lot of restaurants getting into delivery, but also Amazon and Walmart — they're both hiring.

Some of the warehousing and logistics that go behind that — Charlotte's always been known as sort of a distribution hub — a lot of those are hiring. You see Frito Lay and some others, you know, with warehouse and distribution type of operations, they're hiring. Grocery, obviously, pretty hot sector. Harris Teeter and Publix have both said they're hiring. The medical profession — that has long been a growing segment. That's obviously continuing. Atrium and Novant have hundreds of positions they're trying to fill, so, you know, there are any number of places where you do have some hiring. Now, it's certainly not enough to make up for these staggering number of job losses.

Terry: Are there any jobs in demand right now that surprised you?

Mecia: Well, you know, Marshall, one of the things that people might not think of his financial services. You know, there are some opportunities there. Mortgage rates have been pretty low.

They're seeing a lot of refinancing, so they're seeing a little bit of an uptick to handle some of that demand. And also call centers: I talked to a staffing agency, and they told me that they're seeing a lot of call centers sort of beefing up. And if you think about it, that makes sense.

I mean, people have a lot of questions about how things are being affected right now. People are at home a lot. They've got some time to call, so, you know, you're seeing some increases in those areas.

Terry: Well, lest we give the impression that there is an overall hiring boom right now, as you just said, the number of jobs as a whole is still way, way down because of all the layoffs. So, in other words, it's not as if all of these people who are suddenly out of a job can just go simply get another job.

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Health care jobs, though in demand, require highly trained staff.

Mecia: Right. And I mean, these are not all entry-level jobs. Some of these, medical professions especially, not just anybody can kind of walk in and do some of these jobs. You do have to have probably some qualifications. And, yes, the numbers are so staggering and so large of the layoffs that there's, you know, ordinarily in Mecklenburg, it grows maybe a few thousand jobs per month. Here, obviously, the numbers are going to be swamped by the number of layoffs.

Terry: What are business leaders and owners saying to you? Are they optimistic that the stimulus package that Congress passed will help them, or do they think that we're looking at more long-term suffering?

Mecia: Yeah. You know, I've talked to a lot of business owners the last couple of weeks, and I think there's this ... tremendous feeling of uncertainty that if this is something that's able to pass in in two or three weeks, it's something we can weather, but if it drags on longer that it's going to be a significant problem. And not just in the industries that we'd normally have been thinking of, which is sort of centered in retail and restaurants, that it's going to really sort of ripple throughout the rest of the economy if this kind of persists. And so I don't think anybody really knows how long that goes on for.

But if you're talking about this stretching into the summer, you know, that that's gonna be a real problem because you're seeing now retailers, they're having to make rent payments, and they're not able to make those rent payments. So, that's going to affect landlords. It's going to affect banks. It's going to really start migrating other places. Some of that is addressed in the latest stimulus bill that came out of Washington, but, you know, some of it's not.

Terry: Many of the businesses that are still open have employees working from home and are conducting meetings with those employees online. What kind of impact is that change having on the day-to-day?

Mecia: Well, it's a very different scenario where businesses are having to just on a dime, kind of turn and reorient their workforce toward this work from home boom. And, you know, a few weeks ago, there probably a lot of people who didn't know what Zoom was or what Google Hangouts were. Now they're having to kind of learn that very quickly. Really we're talking mostly about office jobs here.

I mean, not everybody is able to work from home or have these sort of jobs where they can just telecommute and hold meetings. It's really altering the balance, I think, of how people get things done, and in some ways it might be more efficient, but in other ways, you know, it might not be. So, it just depends a lot on the individual industry, on the individual company, how these things are shaking out.

Terry: Finally, Tony, this pandemic is making for some strange bedfellows as Charlotte's two big hospital systems and arch-rivals, Atrium and Novant, have been forced to work together right now. I guess this is a situation of where the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

Mecia: Well, I mean, yeah, it sort of makes strange hospital bedfellows, really. You know, Atrium and Novant, really, traditionally they've been rivals. They haven't always gotten along well. They say all the right things publicly, most of the time. But they're really sort of coming together. They partnered up, wrote a joint letter to local leaders to try to get the stay-at-home order through and had success in that. And they're doing a lot of emergency planning together. So, you know, they're partnering a lot, and I think they're kind of coming together and sort of realizing that this is sort of bigger than any disputes that they might have individually.

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