How does pay at southcentral Pa. jobs compare to Amazon’s $15 minimum wage?
Big box warehouses in recent years have been driving the economy in the Interstate 81 corridor from Harrisburg to Martinsburg, W.Va. About one of every eight people working in Cumberland County works in warehousing or trucking, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. More than one in 10 works in the industry in Franklin County.
Local unemployment is below 4 percent. With the tight labor market, employers are having a harder time finding people, according to L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.
Distribution warehouses are posting available jobs and hosting job fairs in preparation for the annual holiday shopping season.
“I think most of ours are already there,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “It goes to the labor environment. Companies are doing what they have to do to recruit and retain folks. In most cases that‘s around $15 an hour.”
A review of local job postings, however, puts the typical starting pay rate around $14 an hour, about 7 percent lower than Amazon’s minimum. That’s a difference of nearly $500 for a worker working the entire holiday season.
Amazon, the business that upended the retail industry, operates more than 100 warehouses across the U.S. The Amazon fulfillment center in Carlisle has posted help-wanted ads promising up to $15.75 an hour until Oct. 31 and up to $16.50 an hour starting Nov. 1. That’s when Amazon’s minimum wage takes effect nationwide.
Amazon’s move will have repercussions beyond retailers and will put pressure on any company that operates a distribution center, according to Gerald Storch of the retail consulting firm Storch Advisors.
“This will lead to a general increase in minimal wages in all industries,” he said.
Storch said that the wage increase also will widen the gap between the healthy retailers, such as Amazon, Walmart and Target, and the struggling ones, which won’t be able to afford to compete on salary.
“The weaker retailers have been cutting costs and squeezing every penny,” Storch said. “They are in a very tough place.”
Amazon’s move has renewed debate about raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The online giant also said it will push Congress to increase the minimum wage.
Amazon, whose value topped an awesome $1 trillion in September, has been under political and economic pressure to pay its employees more.
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO.
Others say Amazon and other companies are having difficulty finding help as the economy booms and unemployment hits near records. Amazon will need more than 100,000 workers to pack and ship boxes during the holiday season. Recent job postings peg pay for Amazon warehouse workers at $12.25 an hour in Omaha, Nebraska, $13 in Baltimore and $16.50 in New York.
The impact of a tight labor market is hitting manufacturers, according to Ross. Manitowoc in Shady Grove is paying $18.71 an hour for entry-level welders and more than $16 an hour to would-be welders as they train for certification.
“They are doing that because that’s what the market dictates what they have to pay,” Ross said.
Working in a warehouse involves staying on your feet on concrete for long hours and lifting up to 60 pounds.
Warehouses in Franklin and Cumberland counties add about 5 percent to their workforce for the Christmas surge, according to the state Center for Workforce Information and Analysis. Last year they hired 820 people between August and December.
Warehouse employment in the two counties drops off after the first of the year, but employment in any one month is about 55 percent more than what it was five years ago. The industry has added 5,000 jobs since 2013.
Local pay for working as a warehouse associate ranges from $8.50 an hour for Chartwell Staffing Solutions at an unnamed warehouse in Mechanicsburg to $17.80 an hour at the Target warehouse in Chambersburg. Both jobs offer bonuses. Chartwell promises a $50 bonus for working 40 hours a week. Target has a $1,000 sign-on bonus after 90 days for those hired to the distribution center before Oct. 26.
Here’s a sampling from job searches on Indeed and Google:
- $13 to $14.50 an hour for Randstad Inhouse Services at the Ulta Beauty Distribution Center in Chambersburg. Temporary positions with a chance to become permanent.
- $13 to $15 an hour for Axiom Staffing Group at a warehouse for “a growing company in Chambersburg.” Potential for overtime and holiday pay.
- $13 to $16.50 a hour for Capstone Logistics at Staples distribution center in Chambersburg. Part-time.
- $12 to $18 an hour at Dot Foods Williamsport, Md. Night work.
- $14 an hour at UPS in Carlisle.
- $14.43 an hour or $16.33 an hour at SuperValu Inc. in Carlisle.
- $15 an hour or $16 an hour at Allen Distribution in Carlisle.
- $13.30 an hour at Office Depot/OfficeMax in Newville.
- $12 an hour at Value City Furniture in Carlisle.
- $11 an hour to $13 an hour from REM Staffing at warehouse in Carlisle.
- $13.25 an hour to $13.50 an hour for Ranstad at DB Schenker in Carlisle.
- $12.30 an hour for Adecco at a Newville warehouse.
- $13 to $17.50 an hour at Macy’s warehouse in Martinsburg, W.Va.
Cumberland County leads southcentral Pennsylvania counties in warehousing and trucking jobs. Cumberland County firms employ 17,300. Leigh and Luzerne counties each have about 15,500, Dauphin 11,650 and York 10,100. More than 6,200 work in warehousing and trucking in Franklin County.
Jim Hook, 717-262-4759