Amazon is on a hiring spree amid widespread coronavirus layoffs and record unemployment

 


The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. jobs market, spurring layoffs, hiring slowdowns, and record unemployment rates, but Amazon’s latest hiring announcement tells a different story.  

Amazon said Wednesday it’s looking to fill 33,000 corporate and technology jobs over the next few months, plus thousands of hourly roles in its operations network. An Amazon spokesperson said the corporate and technology jobs will be located across the country, not just in major cities. The technology jobs will support Amazon’s cloud-computing, Alexa, and Prime Video teams, among others. 

The company has been on a hiring spree since the pandemic began. Amazon hired 36,400 people in the three months ended June 30, bringing its headcount to 876,800, an increase of 34% year over year. That number is expected to reach 1 million employees around the world, a major milestone, once Amazon permanently hires some of the temporary workers it brought on during the pandemic. It also plans to add 3,500 jobs in a handful of U.S. cities, while it continues to staff up its U.S. and international campuses

Amazon has long been one of the biggest employers in the tech industry and is the second-largest employer overall in the U.S., behind Walmart. It has also been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the pandemic, with shoppers flocking to the online retailer for necessities like face masks and hand sanitizer, as well as groceries. 

The company became so overwhelmed with online orders that it hired 175,000 new people to help pick and pack items in its warehouses. Those investments ended up paying off in Amazon’s blowout second-quarter results when it reported record profits and revenue.

By comparison, companies in and outside of the tech industry have been gutted by the coronavirus. Struggling retailers like J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, and J.C. Penney have all filed for bankruptcy, while they travel and airline industries are reeling from the pandemic. 

Tech companies big and small have pulled back on hiring and announced layoffs. As of Wednesday, more than 560 tech start-ups have cut roughly 78,900 jobs since March 11, according to Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the tech start-up industry. Uber, Airbnb, Yelp, and TripAdvisor were just a few of the tech companies that have shed jobs in recent months in order to cut costs. 

Unsurprisingly, Amazon and other big tech stalwarts like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have proven to be largely resilient during the coronavirus crisis. Many of them have continued to boost the size of their staff in recent months and added billions of dollars to their market caps since the beginning of the year. 

With millions of people out of work in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday signed a law giving tax breaks to small businesses that hire more workers by Dec. 1.

The law will reduce how much state taxes some small businesses owe if they have more employees working between July 1 and Dec. 1 than they did between April 1 and June 30. Businesses of 100 employees or less would get a $1,000 credit for the net increase of each new worker.

It only applies to businesses that have lost at least half of their revenue from April to June this year compared to the same time period last year. The credit is capped at $100 million statewide or $100,000 for each business. Businesses get credit only if they hire employees, not contractors. Small businesses that are owned by large companies are not eligible.

Newsom called it “one of the most significant tax credits in our state’s history” because of the provisions that restrict the benefits to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

“So often these open-ended tax credits go to a handful of well-resourced companies, not necessarily those small businesses that need them the most,” Newsom said while visiting Solomon’s Delicatessen, a small business in Sacramento.

California’s economy has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic as the Newsom administration ordered many businesses to close for months to slow the spread of the disease. Californians lost 2.4 million jobs in April, more than all the jobs lost during the Great Recession a decade ago. The state has added back nearly a third of those jobs since then, but the unemployment rate is still 13.3% — higher than it ever got during the Great Recession.

As of Tuesday, the state lists 33 of the state’s 58 counties as the most at risk for the coronavirus, a designation that requires many businesses to halt indoor operations.

Unlike most tax breaks, businesses can also use the credit to lower the amount of sales taxes they have to send to the state. The goal is to help retailers what don’t pay much in income taxes but collect lots of sales taxes.

“There was a commitment among all of us to make sure that our small businesses come back,” said state Sen. Anna Caballero, a Democrat from Salinas who co-authored the bill along with Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena. “We absolutely need to see them be successful and this is going to be one of the tools.”

Earlier this year, California allowed businesses with less than $5 million in taxable sales to keep up to $50,000 of sales collections for the next year. It’s essentially a no-interest loan to these businesses. Wednesday, Newsom said the program has provided $106 million so far for these businesses.

Newsom also signed two other laws on Wednesday. One law exempts businesses from having to pay state taxes on loans received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The other law is an amendment to the state budget that, among other things, authorizes the state to spend various bond funds.