Amazon to keep U.S. holiday hiring flat at 120,000 workers

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(Reuters) – Inc (AMZN.O) said it would hire 120,000 workers in the United States this holiday season, same as last year, joining a list of U.S. retailers cautious about their hiring plans amid an improving job market.

Shoppers this year will shell out more on holiday gifting, according to industry surveys, buoyed by a labor market that is churning out more jobs every month, rising home prices and stock markets hovering at record highs.

Unemployment rates fell to a more than 16-1/2-year low of 4.2 percent and annual wage growth accelerated to 2.9 percent in September, suggesting that retailers are wary of hiring more seasonal workers as it could boost labor costs.

Top U.S. department store chain Macy’s Inc (M.N) announced plans to hire 3,000 fewer workers this year, in part due to store closures, while Kohl’s Corp said it would hire the same number of people it did as last year.

But both retailers boosted seasonal hiring for their distribution centers and warehouses, as they seek to be better prepared for a spike in online order volumes during the holidays.

Department store operator Target Corp (TGT.N), however, was an outlier, saying it plans to employ 43 percent more temporary workers this year than last year as its turnaround efforts take hold.

Amazon on Thursday said the seasonal jobs will be spread out over more than 75 fulfillment centers countrywide to help pick, pack and ship holiday orders. It also said it expects to convert thousands of these positions to full-time roles.

“Amazon hiring same number of workers as last year reflects their efficiency and not necessarily the cost of hiring workers,” D.A. Davidson analyst Thomas Forte said.

Overall, U.S. retailers are expected to hire 25,000 fewer workers this holiday season, the National Retail Federation said, citing strong staffing levels and companies such as Wal-Mart (WMT.N) offering existing workers more hours rather than adding temp workers.

U.S. shoppers are expected to spend between $678.75 billion and $682 billion on holiday shopping this year, a growth of 3.6 percent to 4 percent over last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

This forecast includes online shopping, which is expected to accelerate its pace of growth to 11-15 percent to about $140 billion.

Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Martina D’Couto