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Scramble for holiday season workers already near fever pitch

Last Updated Oct 10, 2018 at 11:01 am MST

FILE- In this May 9, 2017, file photo, a UPS employee loads packages onto a truck at a company facility in New York. The job market is the tightest it has been in nearly five decades and online shopping is still growing at a double-digit rate. Businesses now need more workers at a time when fewer are available. UPS plans to hold nearly 170 job fairs around the country on a single day, Oct. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

WASHINGTON – Across the country, America’s retailers and shipping companies are looking happily forward to a robust holiday shopping season. There’s just one concern: Who will stock the shelves, pack the orders and ring up customers?

The U.S. job market is the tightest it’s been in five decades, consumer confidence is near an 18-year high and online shopping is surging. Companies that depend on holiday season sales need more workers at a time when the ranks of the unemployed have dwindled to their lowest level since the recession.

Envisioning an even tougher struggle than they’ve had in recent years, many companies are taking steps they’ve not tried before. More of them are offering higher pay. They’re holding national hiring days. They’re dangling bonuses. They’re providing more full-time, rather than part-time, work.