FedEx scheduled at least its fourth job fair of the year Aug. 12 to hire for 800 openings at its Memphis hub. The number of permanent, part-time jobs was the same as in June, down from 1,000 in April and up from 600 in January.
The company attributed the hiring pushes to the ebb and flow of staffing a round-the-clock FedEx Express hub that employs more than 10,000 and handles more than a million packages on an average night.
“FedEx is always looking for talented, motivated people to join our team. We regularly ramp up and scale back our recruiting as the needs of the business dictate (like for our upcoming peak season),” spokeswoman Gretchen Mathis said by email.
FedEx’s more public efforts to recruit workers used to be focused during the run up to the holiday shipping season. Last October the company said it needed 2,500 hub workers to help deliver the holidays.
More frequent job fairs and constant recruitment show FedEx is doing what it has to do in a tight labor market, a University of Memphis economist said.
The hiring surge comes at a time when Tennessee’s jobless rate is at historic lows and Memphis and Shelby County posted a 4.9% unemployment rate for June.
“Labor markets are tight everywhere and the demand for quality workers exceeds the supply,” said John Gnuschke, director of the University of Memphis Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research and Center for Manpower Studies.
“Tight labor markets force employers everywhere to either invest in labor saving capital or compete for workers in other ways. Higher wages and better benefits are the basic tools employers use but increasing job recruitment efforts like job fairs is also a way to compete,” Gnuschke said.
“FedEx starting pay levels, benefits and working conditions may not be keeping pace with the alternatives available for workers with the skills required by FedEx,” Gnuschke added. “Background checks and drug tests also shrink the pool of workers especially in a tight labor market.”
However, Gnuschke said, “FedEx has a high quality and continuous human resource recruitment plan to address worker shortages at all levels and clearly has the economic power to compete.”
FedEx advertised the jobs as starting at $12.62 an hour and guaranteed 17.5 hours a week. Medical coverage starts at $5 a month and other available benefits include vision, dental and tuition assistance.
Former hub worker Teresa Lenart, 36, was on the day shift at FedEx while driving a horse carriage Downtown at night. She said FedEx’s benefits and opportunity for advancement were attractive, but her hours weren’t consistent over time.
“I got used to working a certain number of hours, but they cut those back. That’s the thing with the part-time,” Lenart said. She left to pursue a job as a Memphis animal services officer.
Cheryl Burch Citrone, a partner and executive recruiter at Vaco Memphis, said the concentration of large distribution centers within a 50-mile radius of Memphis creates a competitive labor market.
“There is explosive growth around the Norfolk Southern Intermodal facility (at Rossville, Tenn.), which is continuing to add pressure to the labor market for hourly employees,” she said.
“There are many initiatives under way to help build the pipeline of talent in that area but the demand is growing faster than the pipeline,” Citrone continued. Vaco is a search and placement provider for higher-level jobs in logistics, supply chain and transportation.
“With that said, I do believe we are in better shape than most areas because we have such a strong logistics network in the Mid-South area and because we have taken steps to make sure our labor pool grows,” Citrone added.