Amazon on Thursday said it would add 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. over the next 18 months.
Contrast that with reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will cut 1,000 jobs by the end of the month and with Macy’s Inc., which will lay off more than 10,000 workers as part of a massive streamlining. Additionally, The Limited shuttered all of its stores last week, Sears Holding Corp.’s namesake and Kmart chains have been hanging on by a thread for years, and Kohl’s Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and many others are feeling the pain inflicted by e-commerce.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling to get a handle on consumers’ changing buying habits. And as they search for the right mix, Amazon has powered ahead. The company added more than 150,000 U.S. jobs in the past five years, bringing its domestic workforce to 180,000. The digital retailer emphasized that the new full-time jobs will provide full benefits.
Amazon founder and chief executive officer Jeff Bezos stressed that the new jobs aren’t only in the company’s Seattle headquarters or in Silicon Valley. They’ll be in Amazon’s customer service network, fulfillment centers and other facilities in local communities across the country as the company continues to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning and advanced logistics.
The new positions will require various levels of education, skill and experience, ranging from entry-level positions to engineers and software developers. Many of the jobs will be in new fulfillment centers that are under construction in Texas, California, Florida and New Jersey, among other states. The e-commerce giant also noted that Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Flex “will continue to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for people across the U.S. who want the flexibility to start their own business, work part time or set their own schedule.”
After bleeding cash for years, Amazon has posted six consecutive quarters of profits.
The company has come under fire for its hard-charging work culture. A 2015 expose in the New York Times, claimed that employees are given severe performance reviews when coping with family tragedies or serious personal health issues and were routinely urged to harshly critique their fellow workers to upper management. Bezos took issue with the report, noting it “doesn’t describe the Amazon I know or the caring Amazonians I work with every day.”
Some experts thought that Amazon’s hiring rush may have been timed to put into stark relief against the rumblings about more job cuts at Wal-Mart.
“Amazon’s history as a digital pure player ensures that its organization is already quite lean,” said Carol Spieckerman, founder, Spieckerman Retail. “Wal-Mart and other brick-and-mortar-based retailers will continue to go through cycles of organizational shifts to retool for omnichannel success — or in some cases, survival. Wal-Mart is a dynamic organization so while it’s eliminating certain positions — particularly those in human resources and other functional areas that are easier to automate – it is hiring elsewhere.”
Spieckerman said Wal-Mart’s reinvention will ultimately produce a leaner company, but “at the end of the day, certain types of positions will go away and be replaced by others as this transition continues. Amazon can confidently make bold hiring claims based solely on the expansion of its distribution and fulfillment centers. Wal-Mart can make equally bold and disruptive moves as it drives next-level efficiencies beyond its supply chain. It would be unfortunate to portray Wal-Mart as struggling or behind based on imminent cuts when so many other retailers should also be refining their organizations to meet the future.”
Wal-Mart last year paid $3 billion to acquire Jet.com and subsequently bought several e-commerce sites, including Shoebuy. Wal-Mart Stores president and ceo Doug McMillon hired Jet.com founder Marc Lore to oversee the company’s global e-commerce business, which has set the ambitious target of 20 to 30 percent compound growth over the next three years.