Amazon is laying off employees, mostly in its consumer retail business, numbering in the "several hundreds," two people familiar with the matter told The Seattle Times. Layoffs are expected to hit the corporate headquarters, as well as elsewhere in its global operations.
In an emailed statement to Retail Dive, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the company is "making headcount adjustments across the company – small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others. For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring."
As of Monday, the spokesperson said Amazon has 3,900 jobs open in Seattle and 12,000 jobs open worldwide in its corporate operations, and it will continue to grow. "As you have reported, over the past five months, we have secured at least 1 million square feet in the city … a sign we will keep hiring here," the spokesperson said, adding that the space would allow the company to hire an additional 5,000 people.
Earlier this month, Amazon reported a massive sales rise of 38% and noted that shipping costs, whose growth had outpaced sales growth in recent quarters, was more under control. It was also a quarter in which Alexa outperformed Jeff Bezos’ infamously high expectations, leading him to say, "expect us to double down" on the voice assistant.
While Alexa’s job may be safe, the company (the second-largest U.S. corporate employer, according to the Times) is embarking on an unusual rationalization of its workforce. It's noteworthy that most of the cuts are in retail, according to retail analyst Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International.
"With 300,000 U.S. employees, you would have to wonder what kind of organization Amazon is if some of those employees were not pared out occasionally," he told Retail Dive in an email, noting that the company continues to "hire at a brisk pace" and lease new office space. "Nevertheless, the fact that the layoffs are in consumer retail does indicate that they continue to look for ways to make the unit more lean, sustainable and profitable. Shipping costs, at nearly $20 billion last year, continue to be their biggest challenge."
Last year, Amazon created 130,000 jobs worldwide, not including at Whole Foods stores. The company has about 560,000 global employees, Amazon's spokesperson told Retail Dive.
Some sections of the e-commerce giant’s business may have grown too rapidly, considering, according to the Times, Amazon’s Seattle employees numbered 5,000 eight years ago and now top 40,000.
At the end of the year, the Times noticed that Amazon was posting far fewer notices for job opportunities in its hometown. Job postings last June had numbered more than 9,000, but dropped to just 3,503 in the first week of December — the lowest in three years, according to that report. The paper's number-crunching was backed up by The Conference Board, which between August and November last year counted the lowest number of Amazon job listings in Seattle's King County of any four-month period in data since June 2015, the Times also noted.
However, even the subdued numbers overshadow those at other business giants in the area: Amazon job listings surpass those of Microsoft, the University of Washington, Nordstrom and Starbucks combined, according to the Times.