Amazon will hire 50,000 temporary workers for the holidays

Is Amazon’s ambitious hiring a sign of good things to come for the US economy?

Reed Saxon/AP
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says he thinks 'thousands' of the workers hired for the holiday season will stay on full-time at the company.

If Amazon is holiday central, Santa is bringing in the elves – big time.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the company is hiring 50,000 temporary workers at order fulfillment centers across the US ahead of the holidays.

The fact that Amazon is bulking up its workforce ahead of the holidays is nothing new. The online retailer typically swells its workforce around this time of year. What’s new is that Bezos is disclosing his company’s exact hiring figures. (Until now, he’s always kept this information under wraps.) What’s more, 50,000 seasonal workers is a significant addition for a company that reports having a total of 69,000 full- and part-time employees worldwide, as the Wall Street Journal reports. And Santa Bezos says he expects “thousands” of those hired elves to stay on full-time.

“Temporary associates play a critical role in meeting increased customer demand during the holiday season, and we expect thousands of temporary associates will stay on in full-time positions,” Dave Clark, vice president of Global Customer Fulfillment, said in a statement.

Retailers typically add staff in the lead-up to the holiday season to handle extra holiday demand, but Amazon’s hiring figures are higher than expected. Reading between the lines, we think it’s clear Amazon expects to have a robust holiday season with healthy sales of its new tablets and e-readers like the new Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Fire. It’s also a sign that Amazon is hoping to clobber its e-reader competition, including the likes of Banes & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iPad, and Kobo’s e-reader. It may also be a bid to increase efficiency and cut down on time necessary for shipping goods to online buyers.

Amazon released a few more secret – until now – figures in its announcement. It now has 20,000 full time employees at US fulfillment centers, where products are packed and shipped. At the end of last year, Amazon said it had a total of 69 fulfillment centers, according to the WSJ. It said it plans to open 18 new fulfillment centers in 2012, but had opened only six by the end of the second quarter.

Though it didn’t say how many seasonal workers it hired for the 2011 holiday season, it did reveal that this year’s figure is up slightly from last year. That makes us wonder, could Amazon hiring be an economic indicator for the US economy? Is Amazon’s ambitious hiring a sign of good things to come?

That might be a stretch, but we’re still hoping Santa Bezos is bringing more than e-readers to American consumers this holiday. Perhaps a stocking full of tidings of good economic news to come?

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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