(AP) — Online shopping giant Amazon is holding job fairs across the country next week, aiming to hire more than 30,000 people by early next year.
The additions would be a 5% bump in its total workforce.
Amazon is looking for all kinds of workers, from software engineers who can earn more than $100,000 a year, to warehouse staff paid at least $15 an hour to pack and ship online orders. The company said all the positions are permanent full-time or part-time jobs that come with benefits. And the hiring spree is not related to the usual increase in hiring it does to prepare for the busy holiday shopping season.
The job fairs may be a necessity for Amazon. With unemployment near a 50-year low, workers have more options and employers need to work harder to fill empty positions. Earlier this summer, Amazon announced a program to get more of its employees into tech roles, pledging to retrain 100,000 workers and teach them new skills.
Amazon said the hiring events will take place Sept. 17 in six locations where it thinks it can find the strongest talent: Arlington, Virginia — where it's building a second headquarters; Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; and its hometown of Seattle.
"I encourage anyone willing to think big and move fast to apply for a job with us," said Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, in a statement to The Associated Press. "You'll get to invent and see Amazon making even bolder bets on behalf of our customers."
The high number of job openings, which Amazon said is the most it's had at one time, shows how fast the company is growing. Started as an online bookstore more than two decades ago, Amazon now produces movies, makes voice-activated gadgets and has plans to send satellites into space to provide internet service.
Amazon already has more than 650,000 employees worldwide, making it the second-biggest U.S.-based private employer behind Walmart Inc. And that number will likely rise: Amazon's second headquarters in Arlington is expected to employ 25,000 people in the next 12 years. And the company is moving into more industries, including health care and advertising.
Holding a nationwide job fair is unusual for a large company, said Mike Horrigan, president of the nonprofit W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. But he said it may be a good way for a company like Amazon, which needs to fill thousands of jobs in a tight job market, to quickly screen candidates with the right skills.
"This is a way to generate a lot of momentum and attention," said Horrigan. "It makes a lot of sense."
At the hiring events next week, Amazon said about 1,000 recruiters will help candidates apply for positions, prepare them for job interviews and give them more information on the roles.
UPS said Monday it expects to hire about 100,000 seasonal workers and pay them more to handle the avalanche of packages shipped between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That's about the same number of people that UPS hired for last year's holiday season. UPS is also counting on automation to keep up with the constant growth in online shopping.
Delivery rival FedEx and major retailers are expected to lay out their plans in the next few weeks.
The official unemployment rate is just 3.7%, and the tight job market will make it harder — and likely more expensive — for those companies to fill seasonal jobs.
Danelle McCusker, the head of U.S. human resources, said UPS paid an average of $10.10 per hour for seasonal workers last year. This year, under a new labor contract, pay rates will range from $14 an hour up to, for truck drivers, $30 an hour, she said.
"Some markets are a bit more competitive, and we will adjust" wages higher and even offer bonuses of $100 to $250, McCusker said, citing San Diego as an example.
Last year, UPS held job fairs at 170 locations around the country on a single day in October to recruit for seasonal workers including package handlers and drivers. McCusker said the company is considering similar events this fall.
The volume of packages running through the UPS network roughly doubles during the holidays, compared with the rest of the year, and forecasting the right number of seasonal workers — and when to bring them on the job — can be critical.
Two years ago, UPS underestimated a surge in early shopping right around Thanksgiving, and many shipments were delayed. UPS wound up spending an extra $125 million to catch up and reduce delays.
UPS says that in recent years, about one-third of people hired for seasonal jobs land full-time jobs with the company when the holidays are over.
Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Co. is also relying on more automation to increase package-sorting capacity. The company is opening or upgrading about 20 facilities — after a similar number of new or retrofitted centers last year — and estimates that the new buildings are 35% more efficient. The company is also raising the percentage of packages that can be sorted with automation, reducing the number that require handling by workers.
FedEx hired about 50,000 seasonal workers last year. Big retailers including Amazon, Target and Walmart also looked for tens of thousands of extra workers during the holidays.