In the last five months, Amazon job listings decreased about 19% globally, but still number more than 30,000. In the company’s headquarters city of Seattle, listings are off 36%.
Amazon has more openings in Seattle — about 7,300 — than any other single location, down from about 11,500 in early February.
That was before the coronavirus pandemic upended all aspects of life, driving a wave of business to Amazon — which made 175,000 temporary hires in its warehouses and transportation network this spring — while much of the rest of the economy shut down, causing widespread unemployment.
The Seattle-area’s role as a technology hub has insulated it to a certain extent. King County’s unemployment rate was 14.3% in May. (The June update is due next week.) But employment in the information industry, which includes many technology jobs, was up 2.8% in 12 months ended in May. Professional, scientific and technical services employment also increased slightly in that period, according to preliminary data from the Washington Employment Security Department.
“Seattle has fared better in terms of job openings, hiring, adding head count” than other markets in the West, said Megan Slabinski, Seattle-based district president at professional staffing firm Robert Half Technology, where she oversees the technology practice for western North America. (The company counts Amazon as a client, and as such could not comment on its hiring plans.)
Slabinski said about 1,000 new technology job openings have been posted in the Seattle area in the last week, which was typical of recent weeks, compared to about 1,500 a week before the pandemic.
“Technology hiring here remains really challenging,” she said. “The pandemic has actually driven a lot of IT project needs for companies.”
Meanwhile, would-be candidates who currently have jobs are reluctant to trade job security for new opportunities, reducing turnover and the new job openings that might have generated, Slabinski and others watching hiring trends said.
“Some organizations are reporting some of the lowest turnover they’ve seen in years,” said Tauseef Rahman, who focuses on talent and hiring strategies as a San Francisco-based partner at consulting firm Mercer. Some employers are looking to transfer employees to busier parts of their businesses to avoid layoffs or the need to make outside hires, he added.
The success many employers have had with remote work — and the potential that it may continue through the pandemic and beyond — is opening their eyes to recruitment opportunities outside the Seattle market, Slabinksi said.
Meanwhile, as employers assess hiring plans, they’re evaluating a new factor in Seattle.
Last week, the Seattle City Council passed a new tax on large businesses to raise funds for the pandemic economic relief in the near term, and affordable housing, local business assistance and Green New Deal programs in years to come.
Companies with at least $7 million in annual payroll are taxed 0.7% on salaries of Seattle employees making $150,000 or more a year.
While it paused construction on its growing Seattle headquarters over a 2018 “head tax” proposal, Amazon had no comment on the “JumpStart Seattle” tax, which carries a rate of 1.4% on annual compensation for companies with a Seattle payroll of at least $1 billion — a group that appears to include only Amazon.
“Several tech companies have already begun to rethink location strategy, including consideration for increased distributed workforce working from home or local offices,” Rahman said. “This will directly impact the tax base of cities in general if employers and employees are open to working outside of headquarters, whether that’s in another office or at home in another city.”
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the greater reduction in job openings listed in Seattle compared to the company as a whole. “We continue to hire in the Puget Sound region, across the U.S., and around the world with tens of thousands of job openings globally,” the spokesman said.
Comparing listings on Amazon’s jobs site Monday with a snapshot Feb. 5, when the company had the most openings in recent memory, shows a few of its other technology hubs were down by a similar percentage to Seattle. Openings in Bangalore, India, and Herndon, Virginia, each fell 37%, while openings in nearby Arlington, where Amazon is growing its second headquarters and eventually expects to employ 25,000 people, were off 28%. Vancouver, Canada, saw listings fall 44%.
Meanwhile, New York City, an erstwhile second headquarters location, still has nearly 850 openings listed, just 2% off its Feb. 5 total. Listings in Nashville, Tenn., a major logistics hub for the company, were essentially flat.
Openings listed in Bellevue, where Amazon is moving its worldwide operations group and has plans in place for as many as 15,000 employees, were down 20% to 561.
Amazon’s job listings are a rough proxy for its hiring appetite. Some listings are for multiple open positions, and a separate jobs site advertises hourly roles in fulfillment and distribution centers across the country.
Amazon said 125,000 of the temporary hourly workers brought on in March and April to deal with pandemic-related demand would be offered permanent, full-time roles.
Amazon ended 2019 with 798,000 full- and part-time employees.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.