By Jon Swartz
Amazon.com Inc., normally a leader in cloud-computing technology and e-commerce, finds itself in the unfamiliar spot of being an employment lifeline.
The coronavirus pandemic and its devastating impact on the U.S. economy -- a record 3.28 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week – has led to a run on the 100,000 full- and part-time jobs the Seattle-based company is filling in its warehouse and delivery operations.
Amazon on April 2 said it has filled 80,000 of the new jobs.
“Since announcing [on March 16] we are hiring more than 100,000 new jobs across the U.S., we have seen an increase in applications of more than 150%,” an Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.91% spokeswoman told MarketWatch. She said Amazon recently created a virtual information session for job candidates and, as of Monday, all new hire orientations are being offered virtually.
Amazon is hiring an additional 100,000 workers in the U.S. to keep up with surging demand for the delivery of food, medicine, and other essential supplies. Amazon says it has raised wages by $2 to $17 an hour, through April. Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT -0.46% will hire 150,000 people to work in its stores and fulfillment centers.
The stampede for jobs is all the more urgent when you consider a majority of Amazon’s openings are front-line jobs in packaging and delivery that expose workers to germs.
But it seems gig workers are willing to take that risk, as 85% of them said they are not afraid to go to work because of concerns related to COVID-19, according to a nationwide SurveyMonkey poll of 2,266 gig workers from March 10-22 conducted for staffing firm PeopleReady.
Amazon says it is aware of health concerns and has taken multiple measures to address them for future and current employees.
“The health and safety of our employees and contractors around the world continues to be our top priority,” the Amazon spokeswoman said. “As communities around the world are requiring social distancing, we’re seeing that our teams—much like grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services—have a unique role getting customers the critical items they need and this is especially vital for the elderly, people with underlying health issues, and those sick or quarantined.”
To that end, Amazon says it has implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees with advice from medical experts, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
Amazon, which employs about 800,000 worldwide, is considered one of a handful of tech companies expected to flourish during the COVID-19 crisis because of high demand for delivery services while many Americans are forced to stay at home. Several Wall Street firms, including MKM Partners and Mizuho Tech, have singled the stock out as a buy during what has largely been a massive sell-off in U.S. equities this month.
“We recommend buying AMZN, [Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +1.98% , Baidu Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209050136/composite BIDU +4.90% , and Uber Technologies Inc. /zigman2/quotes/211348248/composite UBER +2.17% ] as we believe the selloff has exceeded their respective exposure,” Mizuho analyst James Lee said in a March 11 note.
In addition to Amazon and Walmart, a handful of companies are on hiring binges: CVS Health Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209664499/composite CVS +2.68% , (50,000) Pizza Hut /zigman2/quotes/209029767/composite YUM +1.69% (30,000), Kroger Co. /zigman2/quotes/206215053/composite KR -1.92% (20,000), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203410933/composite WBA +2.60% (10,000), and PepsiCo Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208744353/composite PEP +1.43% (6,000).