Amazon is hiring about 20,000 fewer employees this season, which many experts think may be a sign of increased reliance on automated workers, according to Quartz. In 2016 and 2017, the corporation hired 120,000 new employees during the holiday season but only plans to hire 100,000 for 2018. Citi analyst Mark May explained that this is the “first time on record” that Amazon has decreased its hiring goals for the holiday season.
“We’ve seen an acceleration in the use of robots within their fulfillment centers, and that has corresponded with fewer and fewer workers that they’re hiring around the holidays,” May told CNBC.
Amazon, however, disputes the fact that this decrease in holiday hiring is an implication of decreased reliance on human workers. “Since the last holiday season, we’ve focused on more ongoing full-time hiring in our fulfillment centers and other facilities,” Amazon spokesperson Ashley Robinson explained. “We are proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs in the last year alone.”
In 2012, Amazon bought Kiva Systems for $775 million, a robotic company whose acquisition allowed the tech giant to start the widespread implementation of robots in their warehouses at the end of 2014. Kiva’s robots are able to complete tasks in fifteen minutes that take humans an hour. In 2016, Deutsche Bank predicted this automation would save Amazon nearly $2.5 billion, though $880 million was deducted from that estimate after taking into account the cost of installation.
”It’s a myth that automation replaces jobs and destroys net job growth,” continued Robinson. “Our teams work alongside more than 100,000 robots at over 26 fulfillment centers worldwide and we are excited to continue increasing the technology we use at our sites while growing our global workforce.”
Automation is thought to be the reason Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour. By hiring fewer humans and more robots, Amazon is more willing to pay their humans more generously. “We think improved fulfillment efficiency is set to offset the aforementioned wage increase,” wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak.