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Amazon now employs more than 1 million people

Amazon added 400,000 jobs this year to handle the surge in online shopping.

Amazon has created 400,000 jobs this year, most of them in logistics jobs such as the pick-and-stow work done by Diana Watson at a warehouse in Kent, Wash. (Jovelle Tamayo/For The Washington Post)
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SEATTLE — Pandemic-fueled online shopping, coupled with the expected crush of holiday sales, has led Amazon to add 400,000 jobs this year, pushing its total employment over 1 million for the first time.

Those new jobs — primarily in its warehouses and delivery operations — come as the company continues to deal with a crush of orders from shoppers reluctant to buy goods in stores over concerns about the novel coronavirus. Amazon added 250,000 jobs in the three months through the end of September alone, Amazon finance chief Brian Olsavsky said in a call with journalists after the company reported its financial results Thursday. It added another 100,000 workers in October, and now has nearly 1.13 million employees worldwide, compared with 750,000 workers a year ago.

“We are adding people at a rapid clip,” Olsavsky said.

That’s still about half the 2.2 million workers that rival Walmart employs. Home Depot employs about 400,000 workers. At the same time, layoffs continue to mount at other major employers in the United States. ExxonMobil announced plans Thursday to slash 1,900 jobs from its U.S. workforce. Previously, Disney said it would lay off 28,000 workers and American Airlines cut 19,000 jobs.

Amazon’s latest wave of hiring comes after it already announced plans to hire 100,000 workers in March, the company’s first move to add staff to handle the initial surge of pandemic-driven shopping.

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The company has also grown its fulfillment capacity — the collection of warehouses, delivery stations and drivers it uses to get packages to customers — by 50 percent this year, Olsavsky said. What’s more, the company this year has doled out $30 billion in capital spending — the amount it spends for property, equipment and other fixed assets — “a large part” of which has been directed at operations, Olsavsky said. And still, Amazon faces challenges to getting packages to customers on time.

“We’re not totally insulated because we still have third-party delivery partners and certainly our own [shipping] capacity has its limitations,” Olsavsky said. “We do think it will be tight on capacity industry-wide, and we’re no exception to that.”

(Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

And while the pandemic has fueled a surge in online shopping, the virus has also hit Amazon warehouse workers. The company announced earlier this month that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. employees had tested positive, or had been presumed positive, for the coronavirus since the pandemic started. The company faced fierce criticism from employees and some lawmakers that it wasn’t doing enough to protect workers.

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In April, the company said it would spend $4 billion on pandemic-related costs, including testing warehouse workers and providing them with personal protective gear. It said it expects coronavirus-related costs, including productivity losses in warehouses where workers no longer can work closely together, to hit $4 billion in the current quarter.

In the quarter, Amazon beat analyst expectations, earning $6.3 billion, or $12.37 a share. Sales jumped 37 percent to $96.1 billion. Analysts expected Amazon to earn $7.36 a share on sales of $92.6 billion, as measured by S&P Global Market Intelligence.