ATLANTA — Even as there are massive layoffs through much of the economy, the need for workers has picked up elsewhere.

Big shifts in hiring are often driven by similarly big changes — weather, technology, demographics, tastes — and the virus-triggered lockdown is no exception.

It may be temporary.

“The current challenge is not unprecedented,” wrote Jeffrey Korzenik, chief investment strategist for Fifth Third Bank, in an email. “We’ve been through worse and survived — including a pandemic” in 1918.

But for now, the economy overall is contracting. Rapidly.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the nation’s gross domestic product will plunge by 34 percent in the coming quarter while joblessness soars to 15 percent by June, which would be the highest level since the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

In this case, the downturn has been engineered to slow the spread of the disease. Restaurants and bars have been shut down or reduced to takeout only. Offices have sent white-collar workers home. Theaters are closed. Sports and conferences and conventions are canceled.

So at least for the moment, hiring has dropped to just about zero for many jobs, including waiters, receptionists, maintenance workers and ticket-takers. Even Lyft and Uber drivers find few takers.


Yet many kinds of services are in suddenly high demand. The grocery stores and big retailers are crowded, their warehouses and distribution centers frenzied. And some restaurants that had always specialized in takeout and delivery have ramped up to meet higher demand.

As the first wave of shutdowns started about two weeks ago, their hiring jumped — and it has not yet slowed, according to a sampling of companies.

Kroger has hired more than 2,000 people in its Atlanta division, which includes Georgia, South Carolina and eastern Alabama, said Sherri Simmons, company spokeswoman.

“There are plans to hire an additional 400 in the coming weeks,” she said.

Pizza Hut, which has 116 restaurants in metro Atlanta, has cast out the net for 70 more employees, according to a spokeswoman.

CVS “plans to accelerate” its plans to hire 50,000 workers nationally, according to spokesman Joe Goode.


The pharmacy has thus far received 51,000 applications and hired more than 2,400 people, most of them in retail and distribution jobs, he said. “In Georgia, we have had 35 hourly hires into our area distribution center.”

The need for speed has meant using more phone interviews and online “job tryouts,” he added. CVS is also hiring former employees of Delta Air Lines, the Gap, Hilton and Marriott, “tapping into our clients’ workforce which may have been impacted by the sudden downturn.”

Another sign of the shift is captured by Allstate. Customers who insure their private vehicles are typically not covered if they use them for business. Because so many people are now doing jobs where they deliver items, the insurance company is automatically extending coverage to those situations.

Among the companies that say they are still hiring, but did not provide information about the number of local hiring, were Publix, Amazon and Walmart.