That nationwide target for temporary positions is 20 percent higher than last year, a sign of how more shoppers — and third-party merchants — are flocking to Amazon’s online platform.

Share story

Amazon.com says it plans to add 120,000 seasonal workers nationwide as it deals with a holiday scramble that becomes more intense every year for the world’s biggest online retailer.

That target for temporary positions is 20 percent higher than last year, a sign of how more shoppers — and third-party merchants — are flocking to Amazon’s online platform.

In Washington state, Amazon says it’s hiring 3,000 seasonal employees at its Sumner, DuPont and Kent warehouses — a near-doubling of the workforce in those facilities. It’s also looking for temporary staffers for a call center in Kennewick.

The fourth-quarter hiring ramp-up is not unusual in the retail industry: It’s the biggest shopping season, after all, when a lot of retailers make most of their profits.

Macy’s plans to hire about 83,000 holiday workers, Kohl’s aims for 69,000 and Target says it will hire more than 70,000 — all more or less the same as last year.

But for Amazon, which grows at a much faster clip than most other retailers, the season represents a special challenge.

Last year’s holiday frenzy “put a lot of demand on our warehouses, and we were full,” Amazon Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said in an earnings call last January. That resulted in a spike in operational costs as the company rushed to fulfill orders.

This year Amazon has made expensive efforts to get ahead of the oncoming onslaught. Olsavsky said last July that the company was opening 18 new fulfillment centers in the third quarter, up from six the year before.

Analysts with Piper Jaffray say 44 percent of the U.S. population now lives within 20 miles of an Amazon facility, up from about a quarter in 2014.

Amazon is also temporarily keeping new merchants from joining its Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service, in which the tech giant handles storage and delivery of third-party sellers’ products, Bloomberg News reported. A lot of the increase in Amazon’s warehouse activity and seasonal hiring, Piper Jaffray analysts say, comes from handling these third-party merchants’ goods.

Earlier this year Amazon changed its FBA storage fees to spur merchants to keep slow-selling items out of Amazon warehouses during the peak season.

On average, Wall Street analysts expect Amazon to generate $44.61 billion in revenue during the holiday season, a 25 percent increase from last year.

To increase its workforce in Washington, Amazon says it will go to area job fairs and host events where it will offer jobs on the spot.

In addition to a general website for seasonal job seekers, the company has a site dedicated to its Kent fulfillment center

The temporary listings include an opening for a bilingual warehouse coach associate that pays up to $14.75 an hour.

Amazon says some of the employees it hires become full-time staff. Last year, 14,000 of the 100,000 seasonal workers it hired made that transition. “We expect to increase that number this year,” Mike Roth, Amazon vice president of global customer fulfillment, said in a statement.

At the end of the second quarter, Amazon had 268,900 employees worldwide, a 47 percent jump from the previous year, putting it on track to surpass every other Fortune 500 company except Wal-Mart in a couple of years.