Texans continue to job search as big companies open the employment floodgates

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Cierea Harris wanted to keep working, but COVID-19 had other plans.

The Lubbock mom lost her job at a medical insurance company in March, eventually turning to the career center at Workforce Solutions South Plains for guidance.

She landed an opportunity in July as a COVID-19 contact tracer.

“It was like one door closed, and during the pandemic, a good door opened,” she said.

COVID-19 closures and illnesses have forced millions out of work. The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out more than $26.4 billion in state and federal money since mid-March. The agency has received 4.6 million unemployment insurance claims in that time— the equivalent of about seven years of claims.

Big companies like Amazon have adapted to the pandemic by creating at-home opportunities, some of which will transition to in-office jobs next year.

“Fueled by demand from our customers, we’ve been privileged to continue to create jobs and invest across the United States, which has led to us announcing tens of thousands of jobs that we’re trying to fill right now,” said Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of workforce development. “We know that millions of people are in need of career help right now, whether it’s related to COVID-19 or not.”

From the site of Amazon’s $2.5 billion second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Williams divulged details about the company’s plan to hire tens of thousands of people nationwide for corporate and tech roles.

“We really wanted to leverage our scale,” Williams said. “We’re placing emphasis on providing career help to people who may have been impacted by the pandemic. And it’s really open to anyone, regardless of their experience, background or field.”

The company held a virtual career day with a goal to fill approximately 33,000 jobs.

In Texas, Amazon is hiring more than 6,500 people in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and another 1,000 in Austin, Williams said. Those opportunities can be found at www.amazon.jobs.

“The good news for the Lone Star State is there’s lots of opportunities,” she explained, adding that there are “hundreds of jobs in other large cities related to our fulfillment network.”

“Career shifts are tough and that’s really the focus of a big portion of career day,” Williams said.

According to a snapshot of nearly 3 million unemployment claims in the state since March, Texas Workforce Commission indicates 14.8% of those claims come from accommodation and food service jobs. Just over 11% relate to retail, and 9.6% of the claims the state has received stem from health care and social assistance workers. 8.2% of the claims are tied to “administrative and support and waste management and remediation services” positions.

Harris’ new contact tracing job pays better than her old one, and she views it as an opportunity to try something new, while carrying over skills she honed in on during her last job.

“It was a blessing in the storm,” she said.

“We’ve only got one life to live,” Harris said. “I just think about how it could be worse.”

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