Thousands of U.S. Job-Seekers Line Up to Work in Amazon Warehouses

(FALL RIVER, Mass.) — Thousands of people showed up Wednesday for a chance to pack and ship products to Amazon customers, as the e-commerce company held a giant job fair at nearly a dozen U.S. warehouses.

Although the wages offered will make it hard for some to make ends meet, many of the candidates were excited by the prospect of health insurance and other benefits, as well as advancement opportunities.

It’s common for Amazon to ramp up its shipping center staff in August to prepare for holiday shopping. But the magnitude of its current hiring spree underscores Amazon’s growth when traditional retailers are closing stores — and blaming Amazon for a shift to buying goods online.

Amazon said it received “a record-breaking 20,000 applications” and hired thousands of people on the spot, and will hire more in the coming days. The number was less than the 50,000 it had announced it was planning to hire before the event took place.

Most of the jobs are full-time positions in packing, sorting and shipping and will count toward Amazon’s previously announced goal of adding 100,000 full-time workers by the middle of next year.

The bad news is that more people are likely to lose jobs in stores than get jobs in warehouses, said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

On the flip side, Amazon’s warehouse jobs provide “decent and competitive” wages and could help build skills.

“Interpersonal team work, problem solving, critical thinking, all that stuff goes on in these warehouses,” Carnevale said. “They’re serious entry-level jobs for a lot of young people, even those who are still making their way through school.”

The company is advertising starting wages that range from $11.50 an hour in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to $13.75 an hour in Kent, Washington, near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. The $11.50 rate amounts to about $23,920 a year. In Washington state, the current minimum wage is $11.50 but by 2020 will increase to $13.50. By comparison, the warehouse store operator Costco raised its minimum wage for entry-level workers last year from $13 to $13.50 an hour.

Some job candidates Wednesday were looking to supplement other income.

Rodney Huffman, a 27-year-old personal trainer, said the $13-an-hour job in Baltimore would pay enough to help cover bills while he starts his own company.

“I’m looking to do the night shifts and then run my own company during the day,” he said.

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