Lidl US is among area grocery stores seeking to fill positions.

Lidl US saw such an uptick in demand in its grocery stores recently that CEO Johannes Fiever left his office in Arlington, rolled up his sleeves and pitched in at the company’s Spotsylvania County distribution center.

“He worked the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift on Friday [March 20] to really make sure that we could continue to move products out of the Spotsylvania distribution center and into stores,” said spokesman Will Harwood. “That’s part of what we’re seeing. It’s a full team effort.”

Lidl took an additional step to keep grocery shelves stocked this past Thursday when it announced that will hire up to 1,000 temporary employees across its store network and distribution centers for a minimum of two months.

The discount grocer joins a number of grocery retailers in the Fredericksburg area racing to keep up with customer demand and to follow more stringent health safety measures as COVID–19 cases rise across the country.

Walmart, for example, is seeking to fill 150,000 positions nationwide, including full-time, part-time and temporary jobs in its distribution and fulfillment centers. Giant Food has immediate openings for store clerks, pharmacy technicians, delivery drivers and warehouse workers.

Food Lion has added about 5,000 associates. Aldi hired 7,500 and is “continuing to hire more each day,” according to a March 25 update on its website. Publix said it’s seeking to hire “thousands” by the end of March to fill positions at its stores and distribution centers, and Wegmans is hiring as well.

The surge comes just as Americans are being laid off in record numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 3 million filed for unemployment in the report released last week, shattering the Great Recession peak of 665,000 in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982.

In Virginia, nearly 47,000 people filed unemployment claims the week of March 15-21, an 18-fold increase over the 2,706 claims filed the previous week.

Grocery stores are using creative approaches to attract candidates, ranging from health care benefits to phone interviews to temporary raises.

Lidl US, for example, worked with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to become the first in the industry to make new hires who don’t have health insurance immediately eligible for medical benefits covering testing and treatment related to COVID-19 at no cost.

Lidl US employees already enrolled in company insurance plans will automatically receive the enhanced medical benefits package, which waives copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles and includes virtual visits through the CareFirst Video Visit platform.

“The new positions ... will help us better meet the unprecedented needs of our customers,” said Lidl US Chairman Roman Heini. “We are working hard to serve them and protect the health of our employees who are playing a critical role.”

Walmart is shortening its two-week hiring process to as little as 24 hours. Formal interviews and written job offers have been eliminated. Instead, store managers are calling applicants to screen them and will make a verbal offer on the phone if they meet expectations.

At Aldi, there’s a temporary increase in wages for those working at its stores and warehouses and the sick-leave policy has been adjusted “to offer extra support during this challenging time,” according to its website.

“Now more than ever, our service to the community is critical. As more Americans are advised to stay home, we want to reassure you that ALDI stores will remain open and our focus is to keep our shelves stocked,” Aldi said in a message to customers.

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

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