If you had to guess, amid the economic chaos, about the companies actually hiring during the coronavirus pandemic, what would come to mind? Maybe you’d think of the surge in online ordering, or glance out the window to see a blue Mercedes-Benz delivery van with the word “prime” next to a familiar logo.
Amazon on Monday announced it would hire 100,000 full- and part-time employees across its fulfillment network in the United States and Canada to meet online ordering demand. That hiring binge includes more than 600 new jobs in the Lehigh Valley, with several hundred openings each at Amazon’s fulfillment centers in Upper Macungie Township and in Palmer Township, spokesperson Rachael Lighty said.
Amazon already employs about 3,000 full-time employees in the Lehigh Valley, where it has become one of the area’s largest employers, drawn to the region’s proximity to major population meccas such as Philadelphia and New York City. Amazon’s Lehigh Valley presence also represents a sizable chunk of its Pennsylvania payroll, which totals 16,000 full- and part-timers.
Lighty said the jobs announced Monday are permanent, not seasonal, full- and part-time roles. The jobs come with a starting wage of at least $15 per hour, along with a $500 sign-on bonus.
Amazon also is growing just outside the Lehigh Valley. The company plans to occupy a 1 million-square-foot warehouse near Hamburg, Berks County, by late this year or early 2021. While Lighty said in early August that Amazon planned to hire more than 1,000 workers at that site, she said Monday that up to 2,000 jobs could be housed at that location, 3563 Mountain Road in Upper Bern Township.
Amazon’s hiring announcement could provide a boost, or at least a jolt of positive news, to a slowly recovering job market.
In the Lehigh Valley, the unemployment rate was 13.9% in July, which has slowly improved from north of 16.5% in April. The area, like many others, has seen large declines in year-over-year employment within leisure and hospitality and professional and business services.
By comparison, the region’s transportation-and-warehousing sector has been steady, with 29,900 jobs in July, almost unchanged from 30,000 a year earlier, according to state data.
In addition to Amazon, many other warehouse employers have added jobs during the pandemic.
That includes Uline, which is filling 100 positions at its Upper Macungie distribution and fulfillment center, where warehouse positions start at $23 an hour. Grocery stores, shipping services and big-box retailers also have consistently hired throughout the pandemic.
Amazon, which has hired 175,000 new associates during the pandemic, saw second-quarter net sales increase 40% to nearly $89 billion, compared with $63 billion a year earlier. While expenses also increased, with Amazon spending $4 billion in the quarter on coronavirus-related costs such as purchasing personal protective equipment for employees and cleaning its buildings, net income still hit $5.2 billion, doubling profit from last year’s second quarter.
Amazon has started hiring for the new roles announced Monday. Those interested can visit amazon.com/apply.
Morning Call reporter Jon Harris can be reached at 610-820-6779 or at [email protected]
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