Internet Retailer readers know Amazon.com Inc. is by far the largest online retailer in the United States, but data the company released today about its employee count adds more dimension to its role in retail.
Amazon says it had 180,000 full-time employees in the United States at the end of 2016. That’s news because the only employee figure the company publicly releases is its worldwide figure, which includes part-time employees as well. That figure was 306,800 as of Sept. 30. Amazon did not respond to an inquiry about international hiring plans.
Amazon released the 180,000 figure when it announced plans to increase its U.S. full-time employee count to 280,000 by mid-2018, an increase of 55%. The hires are companywide, but most job creation will be in staffing Amazon’s growing fulfillment center network. The company added 26 fulfillment centers in 2016, according to Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer. More have been announced. The most recent is a 1 million square foot facility in Jacksonville, Fla., that will eventually employ 1,000 full time.
“We plan to add another 100,000 new Amazonians across the company over the next 18 months as we open new fulfillment centers, and continue to invent in areas like cloud technology, machine learning and advanced logistics,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
The 100,000 increase signals Amazon doesn’t see a slowdown happening anytime soon. Amazon’s compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2015 was 20.5% (2016 figures come out later this month), and it had net sales of $107.01 billion in 2015, with about 60% of revenue coming from its North American (U.S. and Canada) retail business. Conservatively measured using the known global employee figure (which includes part-time workers), 59% of Amazon’s employees are in the United States.
This does not take into account contractors working via the Amazon Flex program. Amazon Flex workers are considered independent contractors and make deliveries in markets where Amazon offers same-day or Amazon Prime Now delivery. The employee count also does not include marketplace sellers that make money selling through Amazon’s marketplace and pay Amazon a commission on each sale.
Comparing Amazon’s current 180,000 full-time employee figure against the employee figures of other major U.S. e-retailers and retail chains is revealing. Amazon has more year-round employees in the United States than Macy’s Inc.—the sixth-largest online retailer in North America and which operated 870 stores across 45 states as of last April. At that time Macy’s had 157,900 year-round employees (full and part time). Over the 2016 holiday season, Amazon hired 120,000 temporary workers, up 20% from 2015, whereas Macy’s hired 83,000 temporary workers, the same number it brought on a year earlier. In the holiday season’s wake, Macy’s announced it would cut 10,000 jobs as it restructures operations and closes 100 stores.
Best Buy Co. Inc., No. 12 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, employs 125,000 globally. It has more than 1,500 stores in the United States and says 70% of the U.S. population lives within 15 minutes of a Best Buy store. Best Buy generates more than 90% of its revenue in the United States, however it declined to disclose the number of employees it has in the United States.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. 4 in the Top 500 and the largest retail store operator in the world, says it has 1.5 million employees in the United States and 2.3 million globally.
Looking at web-only entities, Overstock.com Inc. (No. 29) has 1,900 full-time employees. Last month it announced plans to hire 150 people to staff a new customer service center it expects to open in May in Grays Harbor County, Wash.
Wayfair Inc. (No. 24), which uses a drop-ship model for most products it sells and operates two fulfillment centers, has fewer than 4,000 full-time equivalent employees.
Amazon’s continued growth is taking share from retail chains and other online retailers selling in the United States. The total value of all goods transacted on Amazon sites in the United States, including its own goods and goods sold on its marketplace, was $112.8 billion in 2015, equal to 33.0% of all retail goods sold online in the United States. In 2014, it accounted for 29.2% of such goods. In one year’s time Amazon’s market share grew 3.8 percentage points. This is on top of a 2.6 percentage point gain between 2013 and 2014.
R.W. Baird & Co. senior analyst Colin Sebastian says the hiring announcement reinforces his business expectations of Amazon. “We view this announcement positively in terms of the current trajectory of Amazon’s business, as well as management’s confidence in the long-term outlook,” he writes in an investment brief. “Amazon will continue to invest aggressively in its retail, media, technology and logistics businesses, rather than focusing on margin improvement.”
Amazon is the No. 1 e-retailer in North America and in Europe.