Amazon.com Inc. revealed plans to hire more than 100,000 people in the U.S. in the next 18 months, grabbing the spotlight as President-elect Donald Trump pushes companies to employ more Americans.
The staffing up isn’t particularly surprising for a company moving into multiple categories from groceries, hardware and video to fashion and cloud services. But the move could appease Trump, who tangled with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos during the election campaign.
“It’s a very powerful headline, and the timing certainly makes Trump look good,” said Ivan Feinseth, an analyst at Tigress Financial Partners. “It’s going to happen in the first year and half of his administration. Bezos couldn’t have set him up any better to look good — timing is everything.”
Bezos and Trump publicly exchanged hostilities during the presidential campaign, with Bezos joking that he would send Trump to space on one of his rockets and Trump saying that Amazon has a “huge” antitrust problem and accusing Bezos of using The Washington Post to influence politicians to help Amazon on taxes. After Trump’s victory, Bezos tweeted: “I for one give him my most open mind.”
Bezos was among a group of leading technology industry executives who met with Trump last month in Manhattan to discuss points of concern. Jobs, immigration and China topped the agenda. Since then, several companies — from IBM to Ford and Alibaba — have publicly announced hiring sprees, though some of them were repolishing previously announced intentions. In a call with reporters Jan. 12, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said his boss was happy to play a part in Amazon’s decision.
The new positions “are for people all across the country and with all types of experience, education and skill levels — from engineers and software developers to those seeking entry-level positions and on-the-job training,” Amazon said. The company also said businesses such as Marketplace and Amazon Flex will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for people who want the flexibility to be an entrepreneur and set their own schedule.
Feinseth said Amazon’s hiring pledge transcends political optics. “You have a good company hiring people in an area where a lot of tech companies tend to be outsourcing people,” he said. “So it’s very positive, political or not. It’s still 100,000 more people in the U.S.”
Still, in 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available, Amazon was hiring an average of about 6,400 people a month globally. So it’s a good bet that a big chunk of the announced U.S. recruiting would have happened anyway.
What’s more, the hiring spree could do less to help the U.S. economy than is immediately apparent. Research groups have argued that the company kills more jobs than it creates because it has disrupted the traditional retail industry. Critics also say tax breaks and other incentives that have helped fuel Amazon’s warehouse growth weren’t worth the investment because they create mostly low-wage jobs, many of them temporary.
Josh Olson, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co., said Amazon’s move sets a potentially dangerous precedent. “It’s an odd thing when one of the biggest, most successful U.S. corporations has to kind of bow down or pay homage to a Republican president when the Republican party has traditionally been pro-business,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a healthy environment for the long run, when you have a president publicly shaming companies.”