UPS will hire up to 95,000 holiday season workers

NEW YORK (AP) — UPS said Tuesday it will hire 90,000 to 95,000 employees — about the same as last year — to help handle shipping and deliveries over the holiday season.

The company has struggled to handle a crush of online shipping over the past two years, particularly during the last, frenzied days of the shopping season, when retailers entice people into buying last-minute gifts by offering free shipping. Millions of packages arrived late in 2013 and 2014. UPS said it is better-prepared this year because it is reaching out to more customers, including smaller retailers, to get estimates of how many orders they expect to receive. The company says it is getting more updates on those figures.

“We know those things are coming now where once upon a time we may not have expected them,” said executive Tammy Caldwell.

The Atlanta-based company will hire package handlers, drivers and driver-helpers to work full-time and part-time at locations around the U.S. The seasonal jobs will last from November to January. UPS said seasonal jobs can become permanent jobs in some cases. As a federal contractor UPS will pay a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, and some driving jobs will pay about $30 an hour.

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The company said applications must be submitted online.

UPS said it expects U.S. online sales to almost double by 2020. In response it is hiring more staff, buying new vehicles and trailers, using more aircraft, updating its website and investing $1 billion in facility and equipment improvements. It has automated more of its operations so it can process more orders using fewer people.

United Parcel Service Inc. hired between 90,000 and 95,000 people for the 2014 holiday season. That was far more than it had hired the year before, when it was caught off-guard by an increase in last-minute online shopping as retailers enticed consumers with free shipping for their gifts. In 2013 the company initially hired 55,000 people, then added another 30,000. Even with the additional help, some last-minute orders were not delivered until after Christmas, with bad weather contributing to the delays.

The late hiring in 2013 and the cost of improvements in 2014 both hurt UPS’ profits. Citing those costs, UPS cut its annual profit outlook in late January and its shares fell 10 percent. They were trading around all-time highs before that and have not recovered their losses.

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UPS had about 435,000 employees at the end of 2014, a total that doesn’t count seasonal hires. It has 360,000 hourly employees and almost half of them work part-time. Some employees in management positions also work part-time.

Competitor FedEx said it will disclose its holiday season hiring plans soon.

Shares of UPS rose $3.53, or 3.6 percent, to $100.54 in afternoon trading Tuesday. Its shares are up 3 percent over the past year.