Competition for local retail workers heating up

The competition for retail workers in the central Indiana job market has grown so intense that one retailer is offering hiring bonuses.

Pittsburgh-based grocer Giant Eagle is offering $400 bonuses if the 500 workers it's hiring for its new Carmel store stay on the job for 90 days.

"There is a lot of competition right now in the Indianapolis area, especially among retailers," Mike Maraldo, regional vice president of operations for Giant Eagle, told The Indianapolis Star.

The company's use of the sign-on bonus, he said, "is an attempt to make sure we had the opportunity to really talk to the best of the best."

Giant Eagle also launched an advertising blitz for applicants that included television, radio and newspaper ads and billboards, Maraldo said.

"We've been pretty aggressive getting the message out," he said.

Only 42 percent of the Giant Eagle jobs are full time. Starting wages pay up to $11 an hour for workers with retail experience, Maraldo said.

In March, total employment in the Indianapolis metropolitan area topped 1 million for the first time. It has climbed by 25,000 jobs since then, even as the jobless rate fell to 4.5 percent in May from 5.7 percent a year earlier. A rate under 5 percent is considered full employment.

Online retailer Amazon recently announced it wants to find 1,400 new workers to staff central Indiana warehouse fulfillment centers.

James Poore, who owns and operates four McDonald's restaurants in Marion and Boone counties, said he has increased pay and benefits to his workers more over the past year than any year since the recession. That has helped him keep workers and attract job applicants to fill positions vacated by students going back to college and high school, he said.

Average annual wages in the Indianapolis metro area have grown 2.6 percent from 2012 to 2014, reaching $46,853, according to the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University.

"The labor market is indeed getting tighter. That's good news for those who want to work," said Jerry Conover, the center's director.

Much of the Indianapolis area's job growth in recent years has come in lower-wage jobs, such as those at call centers and warehouses. Many are not full-time and don't offer benefits.

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