Amazon Is Changing the Labor Market in U.S. Cities Near Its Fulfillment Centers

Elijah Hahe spent years toiling in retail--supermarket cart boy, gas station attendant--with little to show for it but low pay, inconsistent hours and skimpy benefits. So when Hahe heard a radio ad for positions at a new Amazon.com Inc. warehouse near Columbus, Ohio, he applied immediately."I knew Amazon was an up-and-coming company, so I figured I'd give it a shot," says Hahe, who's 25. "It was definitely scary. Once I got here, I realized it was a good fit."A year later, Hahe is training new hires and aspires to run his own warehouse. He has steady full-time work, health benefits and is saving for a three-week vacation to Ireland, something he never considered while working retail.For many struggling store workers, the answer seems to be: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Amazon says it doesn't count how many of these people it has hired. But, according to the U.S. Labor Department, the number of workers who lost their jobs at department stores like Sears, Macy's and J.C. Penney since 2000 is about the same as the 444,000 hired by the warehousing industry.Many of these new warehouse jobs are at Amazon fulfillment centers, buildings of about a million square feet where products are retrieved, packed into boxes and shipped to homes around the country. The 125,000 people toiling in Amazon's distribution network account for about 25 percent of the warehouse jobs added in the last 20 years. So while critics from Barack Obama to Donald Trump have blamed Amazon for destroying retail jobs, the online giant is also providing a potential lifeline to those same workers.  Continue reading...

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