Many observers of technology trends fear that robots will displace human workers on a massive scale, but more optimistic voices contend that the ongoing revolution in workplace automation will create many more jobs than it destroys. Amazon’s experience is a point in the optimists’ favor: Even as the online retail giant has invested extensively in its robot workforce, it is also rapidly expanding its human workforce. In January, Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 more employees in the US by mid-2018, which would grow its workforce by over 50 percent to more than 280,000 employees.
Six months later, the company is on its way to meeting that goal, GeekWire’s Nat Levy reports, pointing to Amazon’s latest quarterly earnings statement showing that it added 31,000 employees worldwide in the last quarter, bringing its total global workforce to 382,400 people:
Amazon reports its headcount as part of its quarterly earnings statements, and so far in 2017, Amazon has hired about 41,000 people. In the last 12 months it has added 113,500 people worldwide. For perspective, Amazon’s global workforce is roughly equivalent to the population of Cleveland, and it has added approximately a Billings, Mont., worth of people in the last year. All this hiring doesn’t mean Amazon is slowing down. On its website, the company is listing more than 19,800 open positions.
In fact, Amazon is looking to hire another 50,000 employees in one massive day of job fairs next week, Levy’s colleague Taylor Soper noted earlier this week:
The Seattle tech giant announced today that it plans to hire another 50,000 employees who help prepare packages for shipment across its U.S. fulfillment network. About 80 percent of those openings are for full-time roles, with another 10,000 part-time jobs at the company’s sortation centers.
Amazon will host its first-ever “Amazon Jobs Day” on Aug. 2 at 10 of its fulfillment centers where interested folks can learn more about the job opportunities. The company will make thousands of job offers that day to people who apply on-site. Amazon is calling Jobs Day its “biggest hiring event of the year.”
Again, this hiring is in spite of the significant automation at Amazon’s warehouses, as Quartz’s Sarah Kessler also pointed out, and leaders in the logistics industry are not surprised to see more warehouse jobs emerging from the robot revolution:
On the contrary, industry leaders say there’s competition for human labor. … The increasingly automated warehouse won’t necessarily mean the end of the warehouse employee, argue some industry executives. “With e-commerce, picking, packing, and shipping has to be absorbed by retailers,” says Bruce Welty, the founder of a fulfillment company that ships more than $1 billion of e-commerce orders each year. “There are hundreds of millions of jobs to be created. It’s sort of mind-boggling how many jobs we will have to fill.”
Likewise, Brian Devine, senior vice president at the logistics-staffing company ProLogistix, told the Wall Street Journal that competition for labor in the industry is driving up wages. Most of the positions Amazon is offering at next week’s job’s day are full-time, and considerably in pay, from $11 an hour in Ruskin, Florida to $13-14 an hour in Baltimore. Those wages are below the $15 minimum some labor activists are demanding, but appreciably higher than the current statutory minimum wages in Florida ($8.10) and Maryland ($8.75)