Amazon announced Monday that it would add 7,000 new U.S. jobs nationwide, including 2,000 customer service positions and 5,000 full-time fulfillment employees – warehouse workers who help ship goods to consumers.
The new workers would increase the company's workforce by around seven percent, which was at 97,000 as of June 30. That kind of bump would be a coup for many businesses, but for Amazon, it continues a long trend of remarkably fast employment growth.
Amazon's employment has steadily grown over the last decade and has skyrocketed in the last few years in particular. From 2011 to 2012 alone, the company added 32,200 workers, growth of more than 57 percent. As with the new 7,000 hires, a company spokesperson says the new worker additions have been due to rising customer demand.
The jobs are open "as soon as we can fill them – they're open now," says Mary Osako, an Amazon spokesperson.
The company chose an auspicious moment for its hiring announcement: one day before President Barack Obama visits a Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he will talk about jobs. That fulfillment center is among the 17 that are slated to add new workers. Ten states will gain new Amazon workers as a result of the push, including Arizona, California, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The company touts that median pay in a fulfillment center is "30 percent higher than that of people who work in traditional retail stores," according to a Monday press release. However, these jobs are not "traditional" retail jobs in the Walmart sense of the word, and many of Amazon's fulfillment jobs can be low-paying. According to Amazon's fulfillment jobs website, many "fulfillment associate" positions currently on offer around the country pay around $11 to $12 per hour. That comes out to around $23,000 to $25,000 per year, and is right around the poverty line for a family with two parents and two children, at $23,283, according to the Census Bureau.
Working in an Amazon warehouse can also be taxing physical labor, involving many miles of daily walking and heavy lifting. Workers have also complained of being mistreated. A 2012 Seattle Times piece told of workers pressured not to report work-related injuries, as well as employees who were shed quickly because they could not keep up with the demands of the job.The company has often defended its safety practices, saying it's statistically safer to work in an Amazon warehouse than in a department store. Osako says worker safety remains a top priority for the business.