Amazon to Host Job Fair for 50,000 Positions

50,000 new jobs in America today should be good news: a tight job market requiring employers to compete for workers with consequent boosts in their salaries. This is certainly good news for the American working man or woman who has just undergone a seven year “drought” period since the Great Recession. But how long will these jobs last?

Wasn’t it precisely these jobs of selecting and packaging which today only humans can do  efficiently but for which robot substitutes are rapidly being developed. One retailer currently testing them points out that these machines run 24 hours a day. “They don’t get sick,” he says. “They don’t smoke.” (See our July 23 blog, “Another Race for Jobs between Robots and Humans—Packaging.”)

The only way these newly-employed human workers could protect their jobs would be to unionize while they are still needed.

An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Tracy, Calif., last November. PHOTO: NOAH BERGER/REUTERS

 

Amazon.com Inc. aims to fill 50,000 new positions in the U.S. by hosting a giant job fair next week, where it will be making offers on the spot.

The event, scheduled for Aug. 2 in a dozen locations around the country including 10 of its warehouses, shows how Amazon is pushing to make good on its pledge to hire 130,000 full- and part-time employees, as it competes with other logistics companies for hard-to-find workers.

With fulfillment of the hiring pledge, which is targeted for mid-2018, the online retailer’s U.S. workforce would swell to around 300,000, compared with 30,000 in 2011.

Still, the current logistics labor market is tight, according to supply-chain industry executives. The crunch is expected to worsen as retailers and logistics companies start preparing for the holiday-shopping season, for which hiring can begin as early as September.

“It’s clear people have choices. That is obvious,” said John Olsen, vice president of Amazon’s world-wide operations human resources. Amazon is counting on competitive wages, benefits and programs like one that pays for tuition to attract job candidates, he said.

Nearly 40,000 of the newly offered jobs are full-time at the company’s fulfillment centers, including some facilities that will open in the coming months. Most of the remainder are part-time positions available at Amazon’s more than 30 sorting centers. The additions are equal to roughly 14% of the company’s world-wide head count as of the end of the first quarter.

Starting wages for the hourly workers vary based on location. For example, a full-time warehouse position starts at $13 to $14 an hour in Baltimore, while a similar job near Tampa in Ruskin, Fla., starts at $11.

Wages have been rising rapidly in the logistics industry as companies increasingly compete for the same workers, said Brian Devine, senior vice president at ProLogistix, one of the largest logistics-staffing companies in the U.S. Unemployment rates in some major logistics hubs are lower than they were a year ago ahead of the holiday season, considered the peak period for e-commerce-related employment, when hundreds of thousands of seasonal workers are added to the ranks.

“We continue to order more and more stuff online,” Mr. Devine said. “The workers that used to work in the retail stores, now we need those same workers in warehouses.”

But because warehouses tend to be grouped together in areas with good access to highways, airports and population, “there aren’t enough people to fill all these jobs,” he added.

Amazon’s warehouse job-fair events, held coast-to-coast, will introduce applicants to current Amazon workers and allow them to tour the warehouse, Mr. Olsen said.

People can also apply online. While some jobs will be available to start immediately, many will be in new warehouses opening in the next couple of months, in locations such as Oklahoma City and Jacksonville, Fla.

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