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Shipping boxes, delivering shots, manning the sales floor: Vaccine jobs boom doesn't match all skill sets

“I put my family first. I have to decline positions that would be perfect for me but have no stability in the schedule," one job hunter said.
Image: An truck passes through the toll plaza after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 11, 2021.
An truck passes through the toll plaza after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on March 11, 2021.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The vaccine jobs boom is all about shipping boxes, delivering shots, opening doors and manning floors.

Disrupted workers say that doesn’t match their skillset, and they’re hanging back or taking jobs with less pay.

Truckers, nurses, sales associates and managers are some of the jobs in highest demand as America tries to reopen, according to an aggregate of all online job postings collected by jobs site ZipRecruiter.

Truck driving is by far the most sought role, with over 1.3 million jobs open for different kinds of drivers, from semis to local delivery.

“The pandemic has changed the economy and created all kinds of [different] jobs."

High demand from consumers emerging from the pandemic with renewed spending appetites, and the continued strain on logistics from untangling snarled supply chains hit by pandemic disruption, are forcing companies to go the extra mile to hire drivers.

Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc., a large U.S. truckload carrier, announced last week it was raising pay for drivers, the latest trucking company to do so, and said wages had gone up 40 percent. Firms are expanding training academies and holding pop-up schools to try to boost recruiting.

Hiring is also strong in nursing, with 320,000 open positions. Retail is trying to staff up for doors reopening, with nearly 270,000 jobs open for sales associates.

There are also over 115,000 positions open for assistant and general managers, and about 100,000 jobs available for both customer service representatives and warehouse workers.

“The pandemic has changed the economy and created all kinds of jobs,” said Julia Pollak, labor economist for ZipRecruiter.

“We're seeing huge demand for workers in pharmacies who can help administer vaccines,” she said. “We are seeing great demand for logistics workers.”

In total there are over 15 million jobs open, based on online postings. The number of unemployed Americans is still at nearly 10 million, creating a disconnect between available jobs and willing workers.

The labor force participation rate lag has businesses blaming generous — and newly extended — unemployment checks for the inability to attract candidates.

Some employers say it’s hard for them to compete with those unemployment checks, especially after being hit so hard for months, if not a whole year.

“Applications have dried up,” said Mike Hain, director of human resources at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, Virginia. “The only people looking are college and high school students. In Virginia someone on unemployment makes $17 per hour — more than most hospitality jobs pay.”

Many of the available jobs are in front-line roles that can’t be done from home. That is problematic for two reasons: Workers are still afraid of the virus and variants — only about one-quarter of the U.S. is fully vaccinated — and nearly half of job-seekers say they want a remote job, even after the pandemic, according to a ZipRecruiter survey.

But it said the workers who value remote work most, such as women and Black workers, are under-represented in some of the industries more likely to allow remote work, like finance and technology.

“There’s good news with vaccines. But these are tough environments to work in. People are still getting ill,” said Bhushan Sethi, global people and organization co-leader at PwC consulting agency. “I can’t underscore enough the real concern of individuals asking, 'Am I safe?'”

While some of these jobs with openings can pay up to $45 an hour, others pay as little as $12 in median salary, according to data from compensation site That might not be enough to coax workers back into the fray.

Chris Fusco, senior vice president of compensation at, analyzed the top job openings available.

To be above the federal poverty level, a family of four with two children under the age of 18 would need an annual income of over $26,246, he said. That’s achievable at the jobs he analyzed if they’re full-time, he said.

However, “if you are working part time at most of the reported jobs, you could be below the poverty level in most family structures,” Fusco said in an email.

Employers, uncertain of how to gauge the return in foot traffic, are asking employees to be flexible with their hours.

Job applicants say that employers, uncertain of how to gauge the return in foot traffic, are asking employees to be flexible with their hours.

Derrick McClure, a 31-year-old veteran from Pflugerville, Texas, said he had job opportunities with both Chase bank and the U.S. Postal Service. Both would only commit to giving part-time hours, but asked him to be available to work up to almost 40 hours a week. That makes it hard to plan for a family budget or obligations, he said.

“I put my family first,’ McClure said in an email. “I politely and frustratingly have to decline these positions that would be perfect for me, but have no stability in the schedule.”

Others say their position got wiped out, and now they can’t find a job for their experience level.

Stephen Defilippis, a 43-year old civil engineer from New Orleans, said he can’t find open jobs in his field or experience level, only for senior engineers or engineer interns. Now he’s working a new job for less pay.

“Like the last recession, we are expected to downgrade our salaries and our careers because the colleges are churning out plenty of graduates that will work for less,” he told NBC News in an email. “Many of the jobs popping up don’t usually match the skill set of those who lost their jobs.”

“It looks like many companies decided to streamline using the pandemic as an excuse,” he said. “I have been applying all over the country on a regular basis so much that I am running out of jobs to apply for.”