The following article was originally published March 23, 2020, and republished through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.
Story by David Wagner
With California telling non-essential businesses to close in order to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, thousands of workers across the state are now out of a job. Airlines, hotels and restaurants are among those facing tough decisions to let workers go.
But losses in some areas are creating demand in others — and some employers in Southern California are on a hiring spree.
For instance, with gyms now closed, "People don't have a place to work out," said Jason Crenshaw, co-owner of L.A.-based New Life Cardio Equipment. "So, people just want fitness equipment."
Crenshaw's company sells treadmills, ellipticals and other cardio machines, mostly for use in home gyms. He told us that with so many gym customers now stuck at home, his orders have more than tripled.
"I just don't have the staff to be able to handle all the volume that we've been taking in," he said.
Crenshaw has hired people to assemble the machines and to drive the delivery trucks. He's also looking for a new salesperson. Not surprisingly, he said many of the applicants have been out-of-work gym employees.
DEMAND FOR NANNIES, JANITORS AND GROCERIES SURGES
With offices and schools shut down, many parents are now watching their kids while working from home.
But what about doctors, nurses and police officers — workers who can't stay home with their kids? Some are now hiring nannies through companies like College Nannies and Sitters.
"In the Los Angeles area, our request for care is up 300%," said Santa Monica franchise owner Laura Davis.
As long as applicants have childcare experience and can pass a background check, Davis told us she'll take all the workers she can. Given the immediate demand, they're trying to hire new nannies within as little as 48 hours.
"Of course, we have a very strong screening process. But people who qualify, we don't have a cap on what we can hire right now," David said.
The coronavirus has changed the hiring process in many ways. The parent company of Ralphs and Food 4 Less is now looking to hire about 450 workers. Corporate affairs director John Votava said they're encouraging people to apply online and interview over the phone.
"A follow up interview in-person depends on the store leader and their availability," Votava said. "That's the preferred method that we're looking at right now."
NEW WORKERS, NEW TRAINING, NEW NORMAL
Albertsons, Vons and Pavillions also say they're looking to fill at least 1,000 new positions locally, and they're proceeding with candidates remotely in the first stages of hiring.
The state of California has determined that cleaning crews are "essential workers," and these workers are also now in high demand. GMI Integrated Facility Solutions provides janitorial services to large buildings in Southern California. CEO Laurence Abrams told us they're taking on a lot of new temporary janitors. And they're training them a little differently.
"Most of the training has to be done in person," Abrams said. "Those training classes are going to be under 10 people, in a large room, with proper social distancing."
Janitors are wearing full protective gear to completely scrub down buildings where a potentially infected person has come through. Abrams said day-to-day operations are starting to feel a lot like a science fiction movie.
"In my 30-plus years in the industry, I've not witnessed a situation that's anywhere similar to this," he said.
WILL NEW HIRING OFFSET JOB LOSSES?
Some hiring could take a while to kick in. Carrie Rogers, Senior Vice President of Business Assistance and Development with the L.A. County Economic Development Corporation, said healthcare manufacturers may soon need to staff up.
"If they're making masks or anything like that, we're going to see a real surge," she said. If they're "doing medical testing, we'll see a surge in those types of jobs as well."
But will this wave of hiring be enough to put a dent in all the jobs being lost in food prep, retail and other service industries? Probably not, said UCLA economist William Yu. He told us:
"It will be definitely a great help for the economy, but it's not great enough to totally replace all the jobs lost."
He said government intervention could help prevent layoffs in some industries. Things are still in flux, but right now Yu is predicting the coronavirus could claim up to 50,000 jobs in L.A. County and raise the local unemployment rate to 7.5%, up from from 4.3% in January.