Amazon to hire 70,000 seasonal workers, 40% more than 2012

Amazon to hire 70,000 seasonal workers, 40% more than 2012 Inc. said it will hire 70,000 full-time seasonal workers for the holiday rush, a 40% boost from last year.

The Seattle company, which runs the world’s largest e-commerce operation, said the fulfillment center employees will join the more than 5,000 hires it announced in July.

Thousands of holiday workers will likely stay on as permanent employees down the line, Amazon said. This year, more than 7,000 temporary workers have made the switch, the company said.

Until they do, they’ll earn 94% of the starting wages of regular fulfillment center workers and will be eligible for healthcare benefits, Amazon said.

The Web giant is bulking up its forces even as the overall retail industry is projected to tamp down holiday hiring this year.

Stores and distribution centers are expected to add 665,800 workers overall for the season, an 11% slide from 2012, according to consulting firm Challenger, Gray Christmas.

Wal-Mart plans to bring 55,000 seasonal associates on board while promoting an additional 70,000 workers to part time or full time. Toys R Us will hire 45,000 employees while Kohl’s will take 53,000 workers.

Target, in an effort to give its existing employees access to extra holiday hours, will only hire 70,000 seasonal employees — a 20% decline year over year.

Many companies are also gearing up for another increase in online shopping, as consumers come to expect more Web discounts and free-shipping offers. And in an effort to compete with Amazon, traditionally brick-and-mortar brands such as Wal-Mart and Toys R Us are offering price-matching deals this year.

The holiday season is a crucial sales period for retailers, making up 20% of annual sales by some counts. But this year, ShopperTrak anticipates the smallest holiday sales increase since the end of the recession.

At least the weather is expected to perk up.

Amid the coldest first quarter in two decades and the wettest second quarter in 25 years, retailers have had an anemic first half of the year, according to Sterne Agee analyst Charles Grom. But based on information from Weather Trends International, Grom expects the third quarter to be conducive to holiday shopping.

The fourth quarter is expected to bring an arctic plunge, however, with the coldest Black Friday in five to 10 years, Grom said. Some of the wintry weather “could be disruptive to holiday shopping,” especially for home improvement retailers, he said.