Amazon hiring 100,000 seasonal workers, reflects role of e-commerce in holiday retail

By Steve Brachmann
November 13, 2015

amazon-335The holiday season isn’t just the most wonderful time of the year for friends and family, it’s also a better time of the year for business as well. Seasonal consumer trends always dictate an increase in temporary to full-time hires in a range of industries; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted in a 2009 holiday hiring report that these industries include electronics retail, furniture retail, general merchandise, clothing stores, sporting goods retailers and electronic shopping retailers. Hiring trends for holiday workers are also on the rise since a low of almost 264,000 workers in 2008 up to 800,000 seasonal workers during 2014, according to statistics provided by online stats portal Statista.

Retailers always top the list of seasonal and holiday hiring sprees but one of the largest employer of seasonal workers the past few years doesn’t own a single brick-and-mortar retail establishment. That would be e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) of Seattle, WA. In 2014, the Internet retailer announced that it would hire 80,000 seasonal workers during last year’s holiday season. In 2015, Amazon has upped that number to 100,000 workers that it plans to employ on at least a temporary basis. This makes Amazon the single largest employer of seasonal workers during 2015, ahead of United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) and its 95,000 holiday hires.

Amazon has been making great gains in employment relative to other tech giants like Alphabet, Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). In the third quarter of 2015, Amazon hired 39,000 employees, more than the company’s total workforce during the fourth quarter of 2009. The company’s workforce of 222,400 employees in mid-October is 49 percent greater than the total number of employees Amazon had at the same time last year. Amazon’s hiring numbers this year are so great that traffic alerts have been released in some areas to warn local drivers of added congestion on the roads.

Here on IPWatchdog, we’ve recently discussed how technological trends in robotics and elsewhere lead to a net increase in jobs and it’s possible that we’re witnessing a shift in retail employment based on the growth of Internet-based commerce. Technology and market research firm Forrester Research found that 400,000 of the 750,000 retail jobs held in March 2013 involved some form of web retailing function. A 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau found that, unlike the wholesale manufacturing and services sectors, the portion of global retail revenues coming from e-commerce sales grew by 14.7 percent between 2011 and 2012 alone. In 2014, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) announced that it would double its global e-commerce staff that year. Those numbers are much smaller than Amazon but it does reflect a shift in business.

If Amazon’s seasonal holiday workers won’t be staffing brick-and-mortar retail locations, how exactly will they be put to work? Most Amazon workers will be staffing order fulfillment and sorting facilities with jobs that pay about $12 an hour in most places. About 30 percent of retailers will increase seasonal staffing levels at warehouses, pointing towards an increase in e-commerce sales as well. Growing e-commerce sales are creating new positions at traditional retailers as well. This year will mark the first time that Walmart hires workers to manage store pickups of online sales to ensure that the customer pickup experience runs as smoothly as possible.

Despite increased holiday sales ordered through the Internet, seasonal retail hires seem to be increasing in number, not dropping. Figures released from the National Retail Federation (NRF) indicate that this year’s number of seasonal retail hires will be the largest number of temporary workers employed during the holidays in the past 15 years. Increased e-commerce hires are being reported by many top retailers including Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE:M), which will employ an additional 2,000 workers for e-commerce order fulfillment; Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE:KSS), which is adding close to 10,000 e-commerce employees; and Nordstrom, Inc. (NYSE:JWN), which is hiring 1,600 seasonal workers to staff its e-commerce fulfillment centers. Even the increased seasonal hiring activity at UPS points toward a growth in e-commerce retail as more workers are needed to fulfill shipments during a holiday season which is expected to see a great deal of Internet retail.

Increased e-commerce retail sales has been a major impetus for the increased seasonal hiring activities among major retail corporations. Other NRF forecasts expect a slight uptick in the percentage of total holiday retail sales conducted over the Internet, up to 46.1 percent from 44.4 percent of total holiday sales in 2014. 2015’s seasonal employment forecast indicates a dip in seasonal hiring from 2013, when holiday hires eclipsed 764,000 workers, but the maximum forecast of 750,000 workers is still greater than any year since at least 2000.

E-commerce is becoming a much more important force in retail sales in recent years, regardless of the season. Online holiday sales are growing, albeit at a lower pace than in 2014, but it seems clear that seasonal sales through Internet portals are increasing sales across all industrial sectors. For example, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (NYSE:WSM), a housewares and home furnishings retailer, saw its e-commerce sales increase year-over-year during the second quarter of 2015, up from $522.6 million to $569.9 million.

This growth in holiday Internet retail sales mirrors a growing tendency towards e-commerce retailers among all American consumers. A U.S. Census Bureau report from August 2015 shows that the percentage of quarterly U.S. retail sales occurring on e-commerce platforms has risen from about 2.8 percent in the first quarter of 2006 up to 7.2 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The United States also has the most attractive market for online retail sales according to metrics drawn up by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. A 2015 global retail e-commerce index released by A.T. Kearney ranks the United States as having the world’s most attractive online market, just ahead of second-place China. The same index report included data indicating that, globally, e-commerce retail sales should increase from nearly $695 billion in 2013 up to $1.5 trillion by the end of 2018.

Warehouse staffing, which added 5,100 jobs to the American economy during October, has been a strong hiring sector as of late, reflecting an increased need for logistics workers instead of retail storefront employees. Between 2012 and 2017, retail e-commerce in America is expected to grow from $225.5 billion up to $434.2 billion, according to Statista. E-commerce in Europe is forecast to double by the end of 2020 and is cited as a reason for job growth on that continent as well.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 2 Comments comments.

  1. Curious November 13, 2015 8:29 am

    A fun fact. Amazon is headed by Jeff Bezos, who is listed on over 100 issued U.S. Patents. His net worth in estimated to be $46.7 Billion.

    Mark Cuban eschews patents, and his net worth is about $3 Billion. I suspect had Cuban gotten patents on his live streaming software (developed during his time with Broadcast.com), his net worth would be substantially more than it is today.

  2. A Rational Person November 13, 2015 10:27 am

    “Retailers always top the list of seasonal and holiday hiring sprees but one of the largest employer of seasonal workers the past few years doesn’t own a single brick-and-mortar retail establishment. That would be e-commerce giant Amazon.com, Inc.”

    This is no longer true. Amazon opened a new brick-and-mortar store in Seattle on November 3rd:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielkleinman/2015/11/12/amazons-brick-and-mortar-bookstore-should-be-a-hit-with-millennials/