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Why Amazon’s Need for 150,000 Seasonal Jobs Could be a Sign of Trouble

Today, Amazon announced it has 150,000 seasonal jobs still available across the US. This is the second time in a month the company put out the word about filling seasonal jobs and it may say more about the state of the industry heading into the real busy part of the 2021 holiday season.

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In September, the company was already seeking to fill 125,000 permanent and seasonal jobs, as well as 40,000 corporate and technology jobs. So, this is not its first call for workers this year by Amazon trying to staff up for the holiday season.

Additionally in September, it also said that its delivery partners planned to hire 50,000 associates by the end of the year.

To help fill these jobs, Amazon held a big career day on September 15, after which it claimed over one million people applied for Amazon jobs globally, with about 500,000 in the US alone.

It appeared the company was staffing up early enough for the holiday season and Amazon looked to be in good shape to handle the 2021 peak season. Well, maybe not!

Today’s announcement that the company has 150,000 jobs open for the holiday season seems to suggest that despite a major hiring effort in September, it is still short a lot of workers.

Amazon also revealed the areas where it needs the most workers are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

That list includes every one of the Top-10 most populous states in the country, and with the exception of Oregon, all others are in the top 25.

2020 – The Holiday Season of Millions of Late Packages

Many online merchants, sellers and customers remember the 2020 holiday season shipping nightmare.

Millions of packages arrived late, with some not being delivered until after Christmas. Could we be heading in that direction again if logistics companies and carriers can’t find enough workers?

While delays affected all carriers, mostly USPS got the brunt of the bad press last year as UPS and FedEx throttled the intake of packages to avoid overloading their networks.

By law, the US Postal system must accept all packages, while UPS and FedEx can “manage” the intake of shipments by refusing to take packages from large retailers that exceeded the shipper’s estimates.

This throttling by UPS and FedEx made it worse for USPS as more packages were dumped into the Postal Service by the large shippers, adding to the Postal Service’s woes.

The one company that didn’t receive much press last year for late deliveries was Amazon as of all shippers (and online retailers), Amazon seemed to be prepared the best for the 2020 holiday season.

Certainly, it got a dose of reality in March of 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic forced Amazon to suspend inbound third-party shipments and instead focus on daily necessities. Consumers flocked to online buying in a never-seen-before scale-up of online shopping that Amazon didn’t have the capacity to handle that quickly.

The company learned from that experience and used its financial muscle to beef up logistics and safety for workers relatively quickly. It wasn’t a perfect season, but Amazon did a pretty good job managing expectations and on-time deliveries during last year’s run up to Christmas.

But What About 2021?

For many merchants (online and offline), the peak season has already started. Even Amazon jump-started its season with a sale offering Black-Friday-like discounts in early October trying to avoid the final crunch as much as possible.

In our season preview, a number of industry insiders suggested consumers would be starting to shop for gifts earlier and sellers should promote more early-season discounts to capture these early buyers.

In addition, most of our experts agreed the shipping industry is better prepared this year, but some challenges would still occur, especially as we got closer to Christmas.

Especially troubling could be product availability as US ports struggle to unload record levels of container ships. It’s unclear how many “hot ticket” Christmas items are still floating on the water, but the chaos at the nation’s ports already is and will likely continue to impact online commerce and retail.

Some popular holiday gifts may not become available until later in the season which could bring somewhat of a late flurry of online orders. One more reason for consumers to buy gifts available today and not get caught up in this potential late season rush.

However, with Amazon’s announcement of having so many seasonal positions still open for the holiday season, a worker shortage could make the entire season even more problematic for everyone.

It can’t be alone in the apparent struggle to attract workers and that makes one wonder how are UPS, FedEx, and USPS doing?

In that regard, UPS may have already provided a tiny hint when it announced last week it was pushing back Next Day Air residential deliveries to later in the day.

This just sounded like the first pullback of a service level guarantee to manage delivery expectations this holiday season. Didn’t it?

In addition, neither UPS nor FedEx have reinstated domestic ground service guarantees since both carriers suspended them in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the moment, they are still honoring most reinstated domestic air service guarantees.

USPS says it upgraded its parcel sorting and handling capabilities, but will that be enough if UPS and FedEx find themselves having to manage the acceptance of packages again and shippers start putting more items into the Postal Service mail stream?

Also, the Postal Service seems to have an issue training new hires as USPS current employees are spread thin. This doesn’t sound promising at all.

Most people hoped for a smoother 2021, but there may be more challenges looming this year than originally thought.

If these companies cannot find enough workers to handle the holiday season rush, even small online merchants and marketplace sellers may face similar issues as last year. Lots of late deliveries and frustrated customers!

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