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Kroger Still Looking to Fill 20,000 Openings: CEO

'We’re aggressively hiring anywhere we can,' said CEO McMullen. 'One of the biggest constraints we have is finding talented people.'

Kroger  (KR) - Get Kroger Co. (KR) Report, the country’s largest grocery store chain, is still hiring.

It has about 20,000 openings, Chief Executive Rodney McMullen told CNBC Tuesday.

They aren’t so easy to fill, he said.

“We’re aggressively hiring anywhere we can. One of the biggest constraints we have right now is finding talented people,” McMullen said.

Cincinnati-based Kroger’s workforce totaled 460,000 as of Jan. 30. It isn’t the only company struggling to find workers. There’s a buyer’s market for jobs, even though the unemployment rate still totals 5.2%.

That’s leading companies to offer higher pay and more benefits, such as subsidizing education costs, to attract workers.

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Kroger is boosting wages in steps and working to lift productivity through technology and more efficient work processes, McMullen said.

The company announced a deal with Instacart Tuesday to deliver online grocery orders to customers’ homes as quickly as 30 minutes.

Kroger on Tuesday traded at $41.99, down 2% at last check, but has jumped 33% year to date.

Morningstar analyst Zain Akbari likes the company.

“Despite comparisons to the peak of pandemic-related stockpiling last year, narrow-moat Kroger’s second-quarter results were solid, and we do not expect to change our $37 per share valuation much,” he wrote after its earnings report last week.

“Our take is more optimistic than market reaction to the news (the shares dipped by a mid- to high-single-digit percentage after the release), but we believed the shares were priced assuming near-perfection heading into the earnings report.

“Notwithstanding the trading price drop, we suggest investors await a more attractive entry point,” Akbari wrote.