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With unemployment rate at 50-year low, employers compete for workers

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – In September, the unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to 3.5%. It hasn’t been that low since 1969, and now employers are getting creative to attract new workers.

All day Wednesday, Staples conducted on-the-spot interviews at stores across the country. The retailer’s National Hiring Day was advertised online and promised prospective employees flexible hours, paid time off, and discounts.

Last month, Amazon hosted similar recruiting events at several of its locations in an effort to fill 30,000 positions.

“We have a job for just about everyone,” Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of workforce development, told Eyewitness News.

Other employers are focusing on luring good candidates with job perks.

For example, Chipotle recently announced it is expanding its education program and will cover 100% of college tuition costs for 75 different business and technology degrees for qualifying employees.

Eileen Wisnewski from Providence College says companies are also fighting for talent on college campuses.

“There’s a great job market out there right now,” Wisnewski said.

She noted incentives like flexible schedules and working from home are often used to attract workers.

“[Employers] are all working very aggressively to get the attention of those particular candidates,” Wisnewski said. “They certainly are not going toward the signing bonuses we used to see in the early 2000s, but they’re trying to hit the students at what matters most; quality of life.”

And while the perks are changing, so is the interview process.

“They’re doing everything virtually,” Wisnewski said.

So PC preps students for online interviews that may not even include a conversation.

“Is it a Skype, or is it that you see the interview question and then you have to respond to the question?” Wisknewski said.

Whether it’s online or in person, people are getting jobs, and over the past 12 months average hourly earnings have increased by 2.9%.

But that’s not the whole story. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, last month 321,000 people didn’t bother looking for a job because they believe no jobs are available for them.

Susan Campbell ( is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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