With restaurants closed across the Commonwealth, supermarkets have rarely been this busy.

Grocery stores aisles are lined with empty shelves, where essentials like toilet paper, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer used to be. Shoppers heeding the "stay indoors" guidance of Gov. Charlie Baker are also stocking up on many meat and potato items as well, and the demand to keep the shelves full has ignited a hiring frenzy.

Shaws, Market Basket, Whole Foods, Star Market, Stop & Shop and Trader Joes have all posted help wanted signs. They are looking for help across the entire workforce, said Brian Houghton, senior vice president of government affairs and communications for the Massachusetts Food Association, which represents supermarkets.

“They're looking for folks who can do the prep areas for takeout. They're looking for folks who can stock the shelves, cashiers, inventory work, you name it. Everything up the chain from the truckers to the warehouses to help in the warehouses,” said Houghton.

Fernando Lemus, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, said he expects the number of new hires will be substantial. Shaws, alone he said, is looking for a thousand positions.

“Now Stop & Shop, I have not gotten the numbers, but one thing that I've gotten from Stop & Shop is that anyone who is looking for a job, they can go to the nearest Stop & Shop and apply, and they can get hired right on the spot,” Lemus said.

Thousands of restaurant workers have been furloughed by closures due to efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus. UFCW President Lemus said his union is appealing directly to those idled workers.

“A lot of our members have lost their jobs in other industries, manufacturing and also in hospitality. So, we are directing them to Stop & Shop … They're on a temporary basis. So, when their employer, you know, start up again, then they can go back.”

Employment in other food sectors is also expanding as residents are confining themselves to their homes and dialing for dinner. Domino's, the largest pizza chain in the country, is looking to fill 500 jobs in the greater Boston area. But the demand is not apparent everywhere.

At a Domino's near Harvard Square, a woman named Fannie sat behind the counter waiting seemingly in vain for customers. She says with the closures of MIT and Harvard for the semester, her shop is not nearly as busy and hiring has been put on hold. But other Domino's, including those in Revere and Charlestown, are experiencing a rush of pizza deliveries and looking to hire.

Across town at a Star Market in Alston Brighton, the aisles were full of nervous shoppers, some wearing masks and gloves. Another reason for the hiring binge at grocery stores is that some workers, fearing for their safety, have chosen not to come in, thus freeing up some positions.

Two supermarkets employees in Massachusetts have reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 at a Market Basket store in Chelmsford and at a Shaw's supermarket in Easton. Across the country, grocery workers have also been stricken in Seattle and Portland, Ore. In Italy one died.

Grocery stores serve as both a respite from home confinement and a possible vector for spreading the virus. The union representing grocery workers and the lobby group representing supermarkets agree on the need to protect those who work in this industry, said Jim Carvalho, Political Director at UFCW Local 144. Stop & Shop and Shaw's, among others, have begun installing plexiglass between the cashiers and the customers.

“It's not at every store yet, but they've been installing it. More members that work in the deli have been doing more of what we call 'grab-and-go' where they … start slicing American cheese by a half a pound or a pound and put it out in a display case. So, there's, you know, a little less interaction with customers and our members at the deli.”

The jobs available in supermarkets will not offset the waves of unemployment resulting from restaurants closings, curtains pulled down on theater stages and Uber drivers scouting empty streets. But supermarkets are exempted from Gov. Baker's business closure directive. And as long as folks need eggs, toilet paper, chicken and rice, it’s safe to assume groceries will also need workers to stock the shelves and meet the demand of customers who have few other places to go.