Alina Selyukh | KGOU
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Alina Selyukh

At a time when millions of Americans are losing jobs at restaurants, hotels and airlines because of the coronavirus pandemic, a few large companies are on a hiring spree.

That's because despite mass shutdowns and lockdowns, Americans still need food and medicine. And that means a new hiring push at supermarkets such as Kroger and Albertsons, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, convenience and discount stores like Dollar General and 7-Eleven, and retail giants like Amazon and Walmart.

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Many industries are furloughing or firing workers, but some are hiring. NPR's Alina Selyukh has the story.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Despite all the shutdowns and lockdowns, Americans still need food and medicine, and that means some companies are actually hiring, at least temporarily - supermarkets like Kroger and Albertsons, pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens and retail giants like Amazon and Walmart.

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Walmart is preparing to hire some 150,000 new staffers in its warehouses and stores and to pay its current workers bonuses as the company wrangles with the stepped-up demand from shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Special hours for seniors to shop are just one of the ways grocery stores across the U.S. are adjusting their operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Supermarkets are restricting their opening hours to give workers time for cleaning and restocking. They're also limiting how many items people are allowed to buy. And they're adding special designated hours when only seniors and others most vulnerable to the coronavirus are invited to shop.

When Kary Wayson walked through empty Seattle streets last week, she didn't realize she was heading to her last shift at work.

"It seemed like all of a sudden Seattle itself took a nosedive," she says.

Her city had become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Parking lots, typically jammed, were deserted. Shop fronts had handwritten "Closed" signs on their windows.

The restaurant where Wayson had been a waitress for almost 16 years tried limiting the menu and cutting back hours.

Amazon says it plans to hire 100,000 new workers for warehouses and delivery service in the U.S. as more people turn to online shopping for supplies as they're isolated at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Has the coronavirus outbreak affected your employment or income? The pandemic's economic impact is starting to prompt layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts for many U.S. workers. Are you one of them?

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Shelly Hughes says three things are required to do her job: a strong back, a strong stomach and a big heart.

She's a certified nurse's aide at a nursing home in Washington state, which also means another requirement: To get her work done, she has to physically be there.

"You're helping residents that may not be able to dress themselves, feed themselves, toilet themselves," Hughes says. "The great stuff is that you get to know wonderful people. I have so many grandmas and grandpas now, let me tell you."

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Kim Thomas felt drawn to being a home health aide after caring for her own ailing mother. Human dignity, she says, can be simple, like a bath and a favorite snack.

When Thomas first started visiting homes to care for patients, she made $7 an hour. That was in North Carolina about 16 years ago. Her pay inched up over time, to $10.50. To try to make ends meet, she sometimes would work through the night, dozing in patients' homes.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET

Amazon wants President Trump and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to testify about a massive military tech contract that the company lost to Microsoft, according to court documents unsealed Monday.

Amazon has taken the Pentagon to court, alleging "unmistakable bias" on the government's part in awarding to rival Microsoft the $10 billion cloud-computing contract, known as JEDI.

Kubilay Kahveci's flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

After almost 10 minutes of standing in line at a coffee shop, Ritchie Torres realized he only had cash in his pocket — a form of payment no longer accepted by this store.

"It was a humiliating experience," he said. "I remember wondering aloud, how could a business refuse to accept cash, which is legal tender?"

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

Starbucks has temporarily closed more than half of its stores in mainland China as an outbreak of coronavirus has surged through the country, affecting thousands of people.

Starbucks executives on Tuesday called the viral outbreak a "very complex situation," adding that the company closed its locations in China at the direction of local government officials as well as "proactively," to limit the spread of the virus among workers and customers.

There's no free lunch, economists will say. So when a company says, sleep on a mattress for a few months and return it for free — that actually costs money.

Just how much?

That question is now in the spotlight as online mattress seller Casper plans to go public. The decision forced Casper to disclose eye-popping losses: more than $92 million in 2018.

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OK, we are not here to judge you this Christmas Day. It happens. We know. Sometimes you buy holiday gifts early, or at least on time. And sometimes, it's Christmas morning and you have got nothing. NPR's Alina Selyukh has put together a guide to the last-minute present.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Today is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, coming just before both Christmas and Hanukkah. And as NPR's Alina Selyukh reports, Americans shopping for gifts say they want products that are made ethically or sustainably or with less packaging.

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