retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Seattle Times reports that Amazon is laying off hundreds of employees, primarily in its Seattle headquarters and focusing on its consumer retail businesses.

The Times writes that “according to several employees, the rapid growth of the last two years left some units over budget and some teams with too much staff for their work. Amazon had implemented hiring freezes in recent months across several groups, a move that reduced the company’s open job listings in Seattle to their lowest level in years.”

The story goes on to say that “hundreds of layoffs are modest for  a company that is now the second-largest U.S.-based corporate employer, and pales in comparison to adjustments in recent years that saw Microsoft and Boeing eliminate thousands of jobs in a single cutting drive. But at Amazon, a company with a wide range of growing businesses that prides itself on frugality and efficient allocation of resources, broad layoffs of any kind are rare.”

Amazon has said that its global workforce is 566,000, up 66 percent over the past year.

In a statement, Amazon says that “as part of our annual planning process, we are making head count adjustments across the company — small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others. For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring.”
KC's View:
It seems clear that this represents a minor reshuffling, not any sort of major cutback. If you want any sort of physical conformation of that, just check lout the radically altered Seattle skyline, which Amazon is in the process of creating a 21st century city. Check out the still-to-be named HQ2, where Amazon will hire thousands of people.

There will be those who will suggest that this move is a sign of weakness. I would argue that it is just the opposite - a sign of strength, because Amazon doesn’t take anything for granted.

The Times also notes that “Amazon’s job listings in its hometown have climbed in recent weeks, as executives approved plans for 2018, and granted teams — particularly those in the Amazon Web Services cloud computing unit and working on voice-activated Alexa software — permission to hire. The company on Monday had more than 4,000 job listings posted for Seattle, up 23 percent from the multiyear low in January.”

Doesn’t sound all that weak to me.