Business Report: Amazon, others raise pay, fewer unemployment claims, new tax credit program, NJ film productions

Amazon is offering $1,000 signing bonuses for its open warehouse positions in New Jersey

With workers in demand, companies are upping the ante. Take Amazon. It’s offering $1,000 signing bonuses for its open warehouse positions in New Jersey. Amazon announced Thursday it’s hiring 75,000 workers across the U.S. with starting pay averaging $17 an hour, plus a $100 bonus for those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The McDonald’s and Chipotle fast-food chains said this week they’re also raising worker pay.

These announcements come as layoffs subside and the job market tightens. The U.S. Department of Labor reported 473,000 initial jobless claims filed in the latest week, another post-pandemic low. The government also reported this week that there are 8 million job openings available, a record.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has signed off on a plan to use tax credits to create jobs under a program called NJ Emerge. It’s part of the multibillion-dollar economic incentive package Gov. Phil Murphy signed earlier this year that aims to help the state recover from the pandemic. NJ Emerge differs from the Grow NJ program, which was criticized for favoring big companies and the well-connected. The new program is supposed to make tax credits available to more companies and has stricter rules about job creation.

The EDA has also approved another round of film tax credits for three production companies. Steven Gorelik, the executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission, says the state’s tax credit program has helped reignite production activity following the pandemic-related slowdown. One Jersey-based production, a zombie movie called Army of the Dead, debuts in theaters this weekend.

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