In this country, thousands lined up to get a job in Amazon

Fall River(US), Aug 2 (AP) : Hundreds of people showed up 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 US warehouses. 

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

Amazon planned to hire thousands of people on the spot. Nearly 40,000 of the 50,000 packing, sorting and shipping jobs at Amazon will be full time. Most of them 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 USD 11.50 an hour in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to USD 13.75 an hour in Kent, Washington, near Amazon's Seattle headquarters.

The USD 11.50 rate amounts to about USD 23,920 a year. In Washington state, the current minimum wage is USD 11.50 but by 2020 this will increase to USD 13.50.

By comparison, the warehouse store operator Costco raised its minimum wage for entry-level workers last year to USD 13 to USD 13.50 an hour.

Many of the job candidates Wednesday were looking to supplement other income. 

Rodney Huffman, a 27-year-old personal trainer, said the USD 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. 

At one warehouse — Amazon calls them "fulfillment centers" — in Fall River, Massachusetts, the company hired 30 people on the spot in the first two hours. Amazon was looking to hire more than 200 people Wednesday, adding to a workforce of about 1,500. Employees there focus on sorting, labeling and shipping what the company calls "non-sortable" items — big products such as shovels, surfboards, grills, car seats — and lots of giant diaper boxes. Other warehouses are focused on smaller products.

While Amazon has attracted attention for deploying robots at some of its warehouses, experts said it could take a while before automation begins to seriously bite into its growing labor force.  

AP