Amazon.com said it plans to add 100,000 full-time U.S. employees over the next 18 months, a move that comes amid pressure on the private sector by the incoming Trump administration to create jobs.
Seattle-based Amazon said Thursday that by 2018 it plans to have more than 280,000 full-time U.S. employees, versus 180,000 at the end of 2016.
The jobs cover a wide range of disciplines, from developers and engineers that work on cloud computing, to warehouse operators that handle millions of packages.
The company also highlighted its role as a platform for third-party providers that use its website to sell wares, create jobs and generate revenue for contractors that sign up with the e-commerce giant to deliver packages. Marketplace, Amazon’s online platform for third-party merchants, supports 300,000 jobs in the U.S., Amazon said.
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“Innovation is one of our guiding principles at Amazon, and it’s created hundreds of thousands of American jobs. These jobs are not just in our Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley — they’re in our customer-service network, fulfillment centers and other facilities in local communities throughout the country,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said.
“We plan to add another 100,000 new Amazonians across the company over the next 18 months as we open new fulfillment centers and continue to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning and advanced logistics.”
What about Pierce County?
In Pierce County, there are two fulfillment centers, in Sumner and DuPont. The next closest Amazon facilities are a fulfillment center in Kent along with a sorting facility.
Will the hiring spree help Pierce County?
Dr. Neal Johnson of Sound Resource Economics spoke Wednesday at the annual Horizons Economic Forecast in Tacoma about the county’s unemployment dilemma of not enough skilled workers for existing job vacancies. He shared his thoughts on Thursday’s news via email with The News Tribune.
“The last year has not seen much of a year-over-year improvement in the unemployment in Pierce County, though there has been an improvement at the national level,” he said. “For Pierce County to get down to 4.5 percent unemployment (down from around 6 percent), it would require moving 6,000 of those unemployed into jobs.
“One difficulty is that those 6,000 most likely are ‘unskilled’ (not just lacking the soft skills), so they would be looking at low-paying jobs,” he said, referencing a recent area study about the ongoing skills gap.
Additionally, “the region is attracting people from other states — California, Texas, and Oregon lead the pack — and those new residents are often competing with existing unemployed residents,” for jobs, Johnson said.
With regards to Amazon, Johnson said: “That hiring is across the country, and a lot of that is at new distribution centers. ... I really wouldn’t expect much of an impact in Pierce County.”
A hiring binge by Amazon is nothing new: The company has grown dramatically since its foundation, adding 150,000 U.S. jobs since 2011. It is well on its way to becoming the second-largest employer among the Fortune 500, after archrival Walmart.
“To the extent that hiring increases in Seattle, that could benefit some Pierce County residents, but that’s not really addressing those 6,000 lacking the soft skills. Indirectly, it would add to the increasing economic activity, which would produce jobs in the service sectors,” Johnson said.
Amazon said Thursday that it had more than 40,000 employees in Washington.
US job creation in sharp focus
Thursday’s announcement seems to fit within the context in which President-elect Donald Trump lambastes, often via Twitter, companies that take jobs out of the U.S. and praises those companies that create them.
This week Trump met with Jack Ma, CEO of Amazon’s China-based rival Alibaba. According to reports, they discussed job creation in the U.S.
In a news conference Wednesday, Trump — who has previously argued with Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post — vowed to be the biggest job producer “God ever created.”
After meeting with Trump in December with other tech leaders, Bezos said at the time, as reported by Business Insider that he found the meeting “to be very productive. I shared the view that the administration should make innovation one of its key pillars, which would create a huge number of jobs across the whole country, in all sectors, not just tech — agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing — everywhere.”
Amazon’s plans to significantly grow its workforce are a sharp contrast to what has been seen in the retail industry in recent weeks. Macy’s announced last week that it will slash some 10,000 jobs this year as it closes stores and tries to cut costs by thinning its ranks of middle managers. The Limited just laid off 4,000 people as it closed its brick-and-mortar stores. Sears and Kmart also have announced store closures, including Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue Kmart store.
It is a pattern seen during the holiday season. While traditional chains, such as Kohl’s and Target, added roughly the same number of temporary workers in 2016 as they did in 2015, Amazon significantly expanded its brigade of seasonal hires from 100,000 in 2015 to 120,000 in 2016.
Indeed.com chief economist Jed Kolko, in an interview last week with MarketWatch, said three categories at the site showed strong jobs growth last year tied to Amazon’s growing economic effect on the nation’s economy: nonstore retailers, couriers and warehouse/storage.
To look at what’s available now or to apply, go to amazon.jobs.
The Seattle Times, The Washington Post and The News Tribune’s Debbie Cockrell contributed to this report.