Amazon announced plans Monday to hire 5,000 employees in its U.S. distribution warehouses, part of an ambitious growth strategy that has come at a financial cost to the company in the near term.
The company is also adding 2,000 jobs in customer service in several locations, including Kennewick.
The announcement comes ahead of President Obama’s visit Tuesday to Amazon’s Chattanooga, Tenn., fulfillment center, where he is expected to outline policy proposals to spur the creation of middle-class jobs.
The president made what was billed as a major speech on the economy in Illinois last week, and brought the topic up again in his weekly Internet and radio address on Saturday.
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The Seattle-based online retailer said it will immediately begin hiring at 17 fulfillment centers for tasks that include picking items from warehouse shelves, packing them for delivery and operating new technology installed to streamline operations.
Amazon, which has warehouses in the Seattle area, is the latest tech giant to tout the creation of jobs in the United States. Apple recently announced it would make some Mac computers domestically.
Some Silicon Valley firms have been criticized in the past for pushing to expand visa programs to bring foreign engineers to the United States, even as they send manufacturing and service-level jobs overseas.
Its U.S. distribution centers employ about 20,000 workers who pack and ship customer orders.
Amazon provides full-time employees with stock shares after two years on the job, a matching 401(k) and health insurance.
Temporary workers, such as those hired during the holiday rush, can buy medical coverage through staffing agencies.
A Seattle Times series last year found that in some of its warehouses around the country, Amazon had drawn fire for harsh conditions endured by workers.
Former managers at a facility in Campbellsville, Ky., said the company created a work environment where employees who complained about conditions, including excessive heat, risked retaliation.
Distribution-center jobs are available in Phoenix; Middletown, Del.; Patterson, San Bernardino and Tracy, Calif.; Indianapolis and Jeffersonville, Ind.; Hebron, Ky.; Breinigsville, Pa.; Charleston and Spartanburg, S.C.; Chattanooga and Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Coppell, Haslet and San Antonio, Texas; and Chester, Va.
Customer-service jobs, which include full-time, part-time and seasonal work, are available in Winchester, Ky.; Grand Forks, N.D.; Kennewick, Wash. and Huntington, W.Va. Work from home positions are available in Oregon, Washington and Arizona.
Amazon’s warehouse hires are part of a long-term strategy to build out its system of distribution centers to more quickly and cheaply deliver orders to consumers. The company has made investments in devices, discount programs, online videos and even robots.
Amazon is expected to soon expand its experimental grocery service, AmazonFresh, which it first tested in the Seattle area.
The firm said it believes the efforts will pay off in long-term growth.
“We are investing for the large opportunity we have in front of us,” Tom Szkutak, Amazon’s chief financial officer, said in a call with reporters last week ahead of the company’s second-quarter earnings report.
In the near term, the experiments have been costly. Amazon lost $7 million in the quarter, a surprise to analysts expecting a slight profit. And the firm said losses would continue next quarter.
Chief Executive Jeff Bezos is betting that near-term investments on cloud computing and a massive delivery infrastructure that lets the company send packages anywhere in the country in two days will provide cash flow down the line.
Operating expenses rose 23 percent in the latest quarter, as Amazon built out its digital media business, which delivers books, music and shows to its Kindle handheld devices.
“The clock is ticking for Amazon to show that it can sell its goods and services while making a profit that might start to justify its market capitalization,” Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners in New York, said last week.
Amazon is seeing more Prime members signing on to access TV shows and movies, Szkutak said last week.
Spending on technology and content increased 47 percent, the most of any category, primarily from investments in Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud-computing business, and video content, he said.
Includes material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg News