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US Hiring Surges As COVID Benefits Expire, Supply Chain Hit Bites; Wage Inflation In Focus

Corporate America is hiring seasonal workers to gear up for the annual holiday shopping rush amid concerns of rising inflation and a Fed taper.

U.S. retailers and delivery giants are pushing to hire more workers during a major labor crunch that has spurred companies to raise wages and offer bonuses to attract workers during the crucial end-of-year shopping period.

The move comes amid a record labor shortage in the world's biggest economy, with nearly 11 million positions left unfilled as of the end of July, the highest since December 2000, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, published in September.

The upcoming wage hikes may signal big changes for the Federal Reserve, as well, as could push inflation higher, while making it more-deeply entrenched than is currently anticipated, in the months ahead.

The U.S. economy added far fewer-than-expected new jobs last month, as hiring slowed amid a surge in Delta-variant infections and supply chain disruptions in manufacturing and housing, but average hourly earnings rose 4.3% from last year to $30.73. 

Wages could rise further as companies splurge on hiring investments as COVID-linked unemployment benefits expire, children head back to school and the seasonally-strong holiday season approaches.

In fact, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the central bank intends to begin reducing the pace of its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases as soon as November, and, absent a significant change in the direction of the U.S. recovery, certainly by the end of the year. He also noted that it wouldn't take a "knock-out great (September) employment report" to begin the process, which many see as the first step towards a 2022 rate hike. 

Corporate profits could also be impacted, as well, as added hiring investments, alongside existing COVID expenses and the costs linked to supply chain disruptions linked to everything from semiconductors to lumber, shoes and clothing, pressure margins heading into the third quarter earnings season.

Collective S&P 500 profits are expected to rise 29.5% from last year to a share-weighted $413.4 billion, but investors will be closely tracking earnings guidance for the final three months of the year to see if the impact of higher wages, input costs and supply chain shortages will clip corporate bottom lines. 

With all that in mind, here is a collection of some major companies that have unveiled holiday hiring plans over the past few weeks:

1. Target  

Big-box retailer Target  (TGT)  said Thursday that it will hire 100,000 temporary holiday workers at its stores nationwide, seeking to boost same-day delivery as it prepares for rising holiday-season demand.

Target said these workers will supplement its current delivery teams and will also have the opportunity to remain with Target after the holiday season.

In 2020, Target's winter holiday sales from stores and digital channels rose 17% from the year-earlier period.

Online sales more than doubled in November and December while same-store sales ticked 4.2% higher, the company said.

2. Macy's 

Macy's  (M)  on Thursday said it will hire 76,000 full-time and part-time holiday staffers at its stores, call centers and warehouses ahead of this year's holiday season, indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels of hiring.

Roughly 48,000 jobs out of these will be seasonal hires while the remaining roles are permanent opportunities to join Macy's, the department store chain said.

3. Kohl's  

Macy's rival Kohl's  (KSS) plans to add 90,000 holiday staffers to work at its stores, distribution center and e-commerce fulfillment center that will be eligible to receive a bonus ranging from $100 to $400 for working at the department store chain during peak demand season.

4. FedEx  

Package delivery giant FedEx  (FDX) said last week it would hire 90,000 people at its warehouses and package-sorting centers ahead of the holiday season.

FedEx on Tuesday reported lower quarterly profit and cut its outlook as labor shortages added $450 million to its expenses.

5. United Parcel Service  

Delivery giant United Parcel Service  (UPS)  is hiring 100,000 part and full-time seasonal workers to meet holiday delivery demand, the same number the company brought on last year.

6. Amazon  

Last week Amazon  (AMZN)  said it would hire another 125,000 employees in its warehouses and package sorting centers and will pay higher wages of up to $22.50 an hour in some locations.

The Seattle tech giant will also offer sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 in some locations.

7. Walmart  

Last month, Walmart  (WMT)  said it planned to hire 20,000 workers at its supply chain division ahead of the holiday season, which starts a day after Thanksgiving and continues into early January.