Amazon plans 120,000 seasonal hires — flat from a year ago, but masking retailer’s growth

The retail giant plans to hire roughly the same number of temporary warehouse employees for the holiday rush as last year. That’s a sign of expansion in Amazon’s warehouse footprint and its full-time workers, as well as its use of robotic helpers.

Amazon says it plans to hire 120,000 temporary employees to handle the coming crush of holiday orders, the same total as last year.

That’s not because it expects flat holiday sales. Rather, the steady seasonal hiring is, counterintuitively, a sign of continued expansion by the retail giant.

The company’s warehouse network — the facilities that store everything from flat-screen televisions to toothpaste and books — is far larger now than it was a year ago, giving Amazon more capacity to react to the holiday rush without temporary help.

Amazon employs 125,000 full-time workers in its U.S. warehouse network, 38 percent more than the company reported a year ago. The company got out ahead of the seasonal hiring boom, holding job fairs around the country this summer that were designed to help fill 50,000 warehouse positions, most of them full time.

That hiring binge comes as Amazon builds more facilities, getting closer to major population centers in an effort to cut delivery times.

Facilities gearing up for their first holiday rush include a 1-million-square-foot warehouse in Carteret, N.J., in the orbit of New York City, and an 855,000-square-foot facility in Houston.

Logistics consultancy MWPVL International estimates that Amazon operates 111 warehouses — “fulfillment centers,” or FCs, in Amazon parlance — and return centers in the U.S., up nearly 17 percent from 95 a year ago.

Marc Wulfraat, president of MWPVL, said he suspects increased use of robotics at Amazon facilities may also be contributing to the lack of growth in seasonal hires. “Many of their FCs are more automated than…

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