Amazon is hiring a record 2.8k workers per day

Amazon's workforce is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Dallas — no American company has hired so many workers so quickly
2 December 2020
  • Amazon is on an unprecedented hiring binge, “no American company has hired so many workers so quickly”.
  • Amazon’s rapid employee growth far outstrips the 230,000 employees that Walmart, the largest private employer with more than 2.2 million workers, added in a single year two decades ago.

The year is coming to an end but Amazon‘s hiring surge in 2020 apparently isn’t done yet. Currently, the online giant is employing more than 1.2 million people around the world, a 50% jump from a year ago after it added some 427,300 staff in the first 10 months of 2020.

That’s an average of 2,800 new workers a day since July. At this pace, the e-commerce leader is on track to surpass Walmart within two years to become the world’s largest private employer. To put it in perspective, Amazon’s rapid employee growth far outstrips the 230,000 employees that Walmart — which currently employs more than 2.2 million workers — added in a single year two decades ago. In fact, the hiring of entire industries that were carried out in wartime, such as shipbuilding during the early years of World War II, are the closest comparisons. 

2020 — the year of the hiring spree

Just two years ago, Amazon’s workforce was fewer than 650,000 people as the company hit the brakes on hiring to focus more on profits. The hiring pace picked back up a year ago after it introduced one-day shipping in the United States, which in turn required more warehouses and more workers to pick, pack and sort packages.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the firm bought on 175,000 temporary workers to replace employees who had taken advantage of an unlimited unpaid time off policy at news of the outbreak. To attract new employees, Amazon offered workers an extra $2 an hour and increased overtime pay. It said the extra wages were not “hazard pay,” but incentives.

Over the summer, Amazon converted most of the 175,000 temporary workers to permanent employees and ended the extra pay bumps for all workers. Since then, it has continued with waves of hiring. The effort has been aided by 1,000 technology workers who create software for Amazon’s human resources teams, many building portals, and algorithms that automate hiring

To date, Amazon has employees in nearly every state and it also has warehouses throughout the United States to be closer to customers. The hiring has taken place at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, at its hundreds of warehouses in rural communities and suburbs, and in countries such as India and Italy. The frequent hirings are mostly warehouse workers, with contractors who work as delivery drivers not included in the figures.

Nonetheless, Amazon has also hired software engineers and hardware specialists to power enterprises such as cloud computing, streaming entertainment, and devices, which have boomed in the pandemic.

Simply put, Amazon’s number of workers now approaches the entire population of Dallas. The spree has actually accelerated since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, hence the hiring is even larger than it may seem because the numbers do not account for employee churn, nor do they include the 100,000 temporary workers who have been recruited for the holiday shopping season. It excludes what internal documents show as roughly 500,000 delivery drivers, who are contractors and not direct Amazon employees, notes the Times.

A quarantine champ

Throughout the year, Amazon is one of the few employers with open jobs. Its founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, said during the company’s blockbuster financial results announcement that “Offering jobs with industry-leading pay and great health care, including to entry-level and frontline employees, is even more meaningful in a time like this.”

The company even used staffing agencies and advertised on television, billboards, and in mailboxes by highlighting sign-on bonuses of up to US$3,000 and its precautions against Covid-19. Inevitably, many workers feared catching the virus in warehouses. There have been eight known deaths reported by media as a result of COVID-19 at Amazon to date, yet the company has faced ongoing criticism for its lack of transparency over the total number of confirmed cases and fatalities, and its lack of information to site staff regarding identified cases at their location.

In attempts to allay concerns, the film rolled out a raft of safety measures to address Covid-19, including machine-learning-powered camera software that would automatically alert employees when they are too close to colleagues. 

Out of its 810,000 workers who are in the United States, about 85% are frontline employees in warehouses and operations who earn a minimum of US$15 an hour, an amount higher than traditional retail work, where an average sales worker makes US$13.19 an hour, but lower than typical warehousing jobs. Amazon even said it would pay bonuses of US$300 for full-time employees and US$150 for part-time employees.

Overall, Amazon is not the only beneficiary of the pandemic that has pushed everyone to shop online. Even Walmart has added 180,000 employees in the United States since March, and its online sales rose 79% in the latest quarter. Target’s e-commerce sales similarly soared 155%. But its Amazon which holds the largest share of e-commerce, with sales expected to grow by as much as 30% over last year’s holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.