Amazon’s workforce grew by 50% last year alone

Many hands, but not necessarily light work.
Many hands, but not necessarily light work.
Image: Reuters/Tobias Schwarz
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Amazon’s is going through a period of explosive growth, not least of all in the number of people it employs. Its quarterly filing yesterday (April 28) showed that it hired 80,200 full-time or part-time workers, a nearly 50% increase in its headcount, over the last 12 months.

That figure doesn’t include temporary or contract workers, which can number in the tens of thousands during seasonal rushes (Amazon hired 100,000 temps for last year’s Christmas shopping season). Amazon’s latest growth spurt is significant, but the company has grown its staff even more quickly before: In 2012, its headcount expanded by 75% compared to a year earlier.

Here’s what Amazon’s headcount looks like, charted:

A selection of headcount numbers from the top 50 biggest employers on the list show the size of Amazon’s workforce compared to venerable names in American business:

Among tech giants, Amazon employs far more people than the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook (although not as many as old-line firms such as HP or IBM). The reason is in the company’s model: Amazon needs to hire the humans to staff its vast warehouses of goods for shipping, while Apple, for example, outsources its manufacturing.

But as Jackdaw Research pointed out in February, its revenue per employee is also far lower. It generates about $500,000 a head annually compared to Apple’s $2 million and Facebook’s $1.5 million. Amazon’s work culture was depicted as ”bruising” (paywall) by a New York Times investigation last October, drawing public rebuttals (paywall) from the company.