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Home Depot, Lowe's embark on spring hiring sprees as labor market stiffens

Lauren Thomas
Two of the largest U.S. retailers are looking to hire more than 130,000 people combined.

Home improvement retailers are hanging out the "Help Wanted" signs.

Home Depot announced plans Wednesday to hire more than 80,000 seasonal workers this spring, in line with last year, to meet peak demand.

Rival Lowe's revealed its hiring plans last month, but on Wednesday said it would host its first national hiring day on Feb. 21. The North Carolina-based home improvement chain is planning to hire more than 53,000 temporary workers for the busy spring season, hoping to fill 8,000 more roles this year than it did in 2017.

Against a backdrop of job cuts, store closures and even warehouses going dark, the task of hiring more than 130,000 workers is easier said than done because the labor market is tightening and motivated candidates are harder to find.

The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in January, holding steady since October at a roughly 17-year low. Most of the recent hiring has been in the health care, construction and restaurants.

Retail CEOs are cognizant of the issue and in turn are sweetening benefits, such as by adding better paid parental leave and raising wages. New U.S. tax legislation, which is expected to put money back into many companies' pockets, has also prompted some retailers including Home Depot and Lowe's to disburse one-time bonuses.

Home Depot is hoping a new tool that allows job applicants to self-schedule in-person interviews will lure more people. Last year, mobile and text-to-apply capabilities increased the candidate pool for spring positions by 50 percent, the company said Wednesday.

"Just as we're continuously evolving to meet the changing expectations of our customers, we're harnessing new technologies to do the same for job seekers," said Tim Hourigan, executive vice president of Home Depot's human resources department.

Lowe's anticipates a marathon hiring event, running from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 21 will do the trick to fill its vacancies. All of its stores will offer open interviews and give potential employees a chance to meet hiring managers, speak with associates and take a "behind-the-scenes" tour. Conditional job offers could be made on the spot.

Lowe's is also hosting a Facebook Live event at 2:15 p.m. ET that day for potential candidates who are unable to attend the hiring day.