The retail giant plans to hire roughly the same number of temporary warehouse employees for the holiday rush as last year. That’s a sign of expansion in Amazon’s warehouse footprint and its full-time workers, as well as its use of robotic helpers.
Amazon says it plans to hire 120,000 temporary employees to handle the coming crush of holiday orders, the same total as last year.
That’s not because it expects flat holiday sales. Rather, the steady seasonal hiring is, counterintuitively, a sign of continued expansion by the retail giant.
The company’s warehouse network — the facilities that store everything from flat-screen televisions to toothpaste and books — is far larger now than it was a year ago, giving Amazon more capacity to react to the holiday rush without temporary help.
Amazon employs 125,000 full-time workers in its U.S. warehouse network, 38 percent more than the company reported a year ago. The company got out ahead of the seasonal hiring boom, holding job fairs around the country this summer that were designed to help fill 50,000 warehouse positions, most of them full time.
That hiring binge comes as Amazon builds more facilities, getting closer to major population centers in an effort to cut delivery times.
Facilities gearing up for their first holiday rush include a 1-million-square-foot warehouse in Carteret, N.J., in the orbit of New York City, and an 855,000-square-foot facility in Houston.
Logistics consultancy MWPVL International estimates that Amazon operates 111 warehouses — “fulfillment centers,” or FCs, in Amazon parlance — and return centers in the U.S., up nearly 17 percent from 95 a year ago.
Marc Wulfraat, president of MWPVL, said he suspects increased use of robotics at Amazon facilities may also be contributing to the lack of growth in seasonal hires. “Many of their FCs are more automated than ever before,” he said.
The company’s warehouses operate more than 100,000 orange robots that store and move racks of goods.
Amazon says that facilities equipped with robotics tend to employ more people than non-robotics warehouses, due to the increased volume of orders they can handle.
Amazon isn’t the only company bolstering its workforce ahead of the holiday shopping season.
Target has said it plans to hire 100,000 seasonal employees, up from 70,000 a year ago. Macy’s will bring on 80,000, down a bit from 2016, and J.C. Penney will take on 40,000 workers, about the same as last year.
The National Retail Federation said it expects holiday retail sales in November and December to increase by at least 3.6 percent this year, to between $678 billion and $682 billion.
An Amazon spokeswoman said the company will hire about the same number of temporary holiday workers at its Washington facilities, which includes warehouse and other logistics operations in Sumner, DuPont, and Kent.
Last year the company said it hired about 3,000 seasonal workers in Washington.