Online retail giant readies fulfillment staff for holiday sales expected to be 40% ahead of last year.
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With its online retail business growing, Amazon.com will hire 70,000 seasonal workers in the fourth quarter to help it fulfill holiday orders, an increase of 40% or 20,000 workers over last year.
The announcement comes as something of a jolt. How can hiring on such a massive scale be going on in a limping economy? The federal government is laying off two-thirds of its employees due to the stand-off over funding bills in Congress. Will your former IRS auditor be fulfilling your holiday purchases this year?
Amazon.com said in its announcement today that last year, it converted 7,000 of these seasonal workers or 14% into full-time jobs after the holiday season was over. If that ratio holds, it would mean 9,800 of this year's 70,000 would end up in permanent jobs. Furthermore, an Amazon.com spokesman hastened to add that the seasonal workers are hired into temporary but full-time jobs, earning 94% of the starting pay of regular workers at its chain of fulfillment centers. They also receive health benefits.
At the same time, Amazon.com is looking for a little good news ahead of its earnings announcement. Consensus opinion on Wall Street is that the company will post a $.09 loss per share, a continuation of a string of losing quarters. Losses haven't hurt the stock price, which was trading at $318.64 an hour before the close, up $6 from the previous day's close.
Some of the usual investor expectations are waived, where Amazon.com is concerned. It is regarded as a company of the future, one whose retail market share will allow it to earn sustained profits once its build-out slows. Revenues are believed to be growing at a 24.5% rate in the third quarter, still strong but a slowdown from 29% in the second quarter and 33.6% in the first quarter.
"We have converted more than 7,000 temporary employees in the U.S. into full-time, regular roles (in 2013) and were looking forward to converting thousands more after this holiday season," said Dave Clark, VP of worldwide operations and customer service. Amazon expects holiday demand to be up by 40%, he added. Clark said that Amazon has added 40,000 full time jobs to the U.S. economy since the start of the recession in 2008.
Amazon might also be trying to build its image as an employer after running into labor difficulties at Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig, Germany, where fulfillment center workers struck for three days earlier this month over its reluctance to grant collective bargaining rights.
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