Amazon hiring 800 workers in Bay Area, job fairs start Nov. 2

Get ’em while you can: jobs, that is, in the Amazon warehouses that the e-commerce giant is working energetically to automate.

Amazon plans to hire 800 people for seasonal jobs in its warehouses around the Bay Area, it announced Nov. 1.

The positions could mean a foot in the door, Amazon said in a press release.

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“New employees will join the more than 125,000 regular, full-time employees at Amazon’s more than 75 fulfillment centers across North America to help pick, pack and ship customers’ holiday orders,” Amazon said.

“Last year, thousands of holiday positions were transitioned to regular, full-time roles after the holidays and the company expects to continue that trend this year.”

The $530 billion company has about 30,000 workers in California. Amazon’s explosive growth has driven expansive hiring. In January, it said it would add 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. over the next 18 months, boosting its domestic workforce by more than 55 percent.

At the same time, Amazon is pushing to turn the picking, packing and shipping jobs — such as the 800 it’s now offering — over to robots.

“Amazon’s automated warehouses are successful at removing much of the walking and searching for items within a warehouse,” the company said in promoting its annual “Amazon Robotics Challenge,” a contest to build robots that can do human warehouse work.

“However, commercially viable automated picking and stowing in unstructured environments still remains a difficult challenge.”

Amazon pushes back against assertions that its focus on automation is bad for jobs.

“Robotics simply make roles within our fulfillment centers more efficient, allowing employees to focus their skills on more sophisticated duties, and allow us to better meet customer demand – which increases the need for creating more jobs,” company spokeswoman Ashley Robinson said.

“Since we’ve introduced robotics into our operations, our hiring has increased steadily across the globe and continues to do so.”

The Amazon Robotics Challenge is intended “simply to strengthen the ties between the industrial and academic robotic communities and promote shared and open solutions to some of the big problems in unstructured automation,” Robinson said.

However, MIT economist David Autor has told this news organization that Amazon’s hiring gains probably mean fewer jobs at competitors losing market share to the Seattle-based behemoth.

“It’s hugely unlikely that it would actually increase in net the total number of warehouse jobs,” Autor said.

Amazon continues to develop its own technology for using robots for tasks currently done by people. A patent the company applied for in May and received Nov. 2 describes a robotic system for replacing human labor in Amazon warehouses with “robotic drive units” that pick up and carry containers and items.

For the hiring of 800 people in the Bay Area, Amazon is holding job fairs, starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 2 at the Courtyard Marriott in Richmond. The other fairs all start at 9 a.m., and take place Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 at Hyatt House in San Jose; Nov. 4 at The Silliman Center in Newark; Nov. 9 again at the Courtyard Marriott in Richmond and Nov. 10 at the Doubletree Fremont-Newark in Newark.



Photo: Amazon associate Renee Plasencia, of Stockton, gets ready to scan items before stowing them in a portable storage unit to be carried away by an Amazon Robotics robot at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. The robots travel inside the warehouse area and slide underneath portable storage units before lifting them off of the ground and taking them to waiting associates, or to be stored away. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)


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