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story.lead_photo.caption FILE- In this Dec. 19, 2018, file photo a UPS driver prepares to deliver packages. UPS said Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, that it expects to hire about 100,000 seasonal workers and pay them more to handle the avalanche of packages shipped between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

DALLAS (AP) — UPS said Monday it expects to hire about 100,000 seasonal workers and pay them more to handle the avalanche of packages shipped between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That’s about the same number of people UPS hired for last year’s holiday season. UPS is also counting on automation to keep up with the constant growth in online shopping.

Delivery rival FedEx and major retailers are expected to lay out their plans in the next few weeks.

The official unemployment rate is just 3.7 percent, and the tight job market will make it harder — and more expensive — for those companies to fill seasonal jobs.

Danelle McCusker, the head of U.S. human resources, said UPS paid an average of $10.10 per hour for seasonal workers last year. This year, under a new labor contract, pay rates will range from $14 an hour up to, for truck drivers, $30 an hour, she said.

“Some markets are a bit more competitive, and we will adjust” wages higher and even offer bonuses of $100-$250, McCusker said, citing San Diego as an example.

Other employers are likely to boost pay, too.

“Last year, there was a flirtation with $15 an hour,” said Tony Lee, a vice president at the Society for Human Resource Management. “This year, $15 an hour seems pretty solid” among nationwide employers, “which puts real pressure on the mom-and-pops, who may not be able to afford $15 an hour.”

Lee said those smaller, local employers will try to counter by offering more flexible schedules — something that often is not possible at the big retail and delivery firms.

Last year, UPS held job fairs at 170 locations around the country on a single day in October to recruit for seasonal workers including package handlers and drivers. McCusker said the company is considering similar events this fall.

The volume of packages running through the UPS network roughly doubles during the holidays, compared with the rest of the year.

Two years ago, UPS underestimated a surge in early shopping right around Thanksgiving, and many shipments were delayed. UPS wound up spending an extra $125 million to catch up and reduce delays.

UPS said that in recent years, about one-third of people hired for seasonal jobs land full-time jobs with the company when the holidays are over.

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