Amazon surpasses Microsoft in number of Seattle region employees amid big growth plans across US


Amazon is now the biggest Big Tech employer in the Seattle region, surpassing Microsoft, according to new data released Monday.

Amazon confirmed it surpassed 50,000 employees in Seattle proper in the second quarter of this year. In the broader Seattle metro region, Amazon has more than 53,500 employees. Microsoft, headquartered in nearby Redmond, Wash. and the region’s longtime top tech employer, has 51,854 employees in the state.

The new figures show how rapidly Amazon has grown over a short period, both in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and around the globe. Eight years ago, Amazon had just 50,000 employees worldwide; today, Amazon has more than 650,000 workers worldwide. That’s more than the populations of many small countries, including Luxembourg and Montenegro.

Leaping past Microsoft is also a milestone and notable, given that Microsoft arrived in the area in 1979. Amazon launched in 1994.

Amazon released the new stats as part of its upcoming “Career Day” on Sept. 17. The tech giant plans to hold events across six cities, including Seattle and its “HQ2” cities, to help fill more than 30,000 available jobs. Amazon’s U.S. workforce totals more than 300,000 people across tech hubs, fulfillment centers, and brick-and-mortar retail stores.

An Amazon Fulfillment Center in Dupont, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“These are jobs with highly competitive compensation and full-benefits from day one, as well as training opportunities to gain new skills in high-demand fields such as robotics and machine learning,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.

The new hiring push shows Amazon still has a voracious appetite for growth, despite slowing down slightly in 2018. In Seattle, Amazon is still actively hiring for about 10,000 new roles. Its massive Seattle campus is on pace to exceed 13 million square feet over the next few years.

The company is building a second headquarters in Northern Virginia with plans to hire at least 25,000 workers over the next decade. Northern Virginia won Amazon’s HQ2 competition, a protracted search that indicated the company was potentially slowing growth in its hometown, where it was also engaged in a heated dispute with the Seattle City Council over a “head tax” on top-grossing businesses that ultimately failed.

Amazon recently announced big growth plans in Bellevue, Wash., a city neighboring Seattle. The entire Seattle-based worldwide operations team is relocating to Bellevue and Amazon has scooped up several big office buildings in the city with room to grow. Amazon would not confirm its current number of Bellevue employees but said it was in the hundreds.

The lobby of an Amazon building in Bellevue. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

As part of its announcement Monday, Amazon commissioned a report on its economic impact in Seattle from Keystone Strategy.

Amazon paid Seattle employees $35.1 billion between 2010 and 2018, according to the report. Its authors estimate Amazon’s investments and salaries contributed  $111.2 billion to Seattle’s gross domestic product over that time period. Amazon’s 50,000 or so Seattle employees received over $9 billion in compensation in 2018 alone.

That multi-billion-dollar cash infusion has had serious impacts on Amazon’s hometown over the past few years. The influx of newcomers drawn to Seattle for high-paid tech jobs led to a housing shortage and bid up home prices, putting a strain on lower-income residents. Seattle’s housing market was the hottest in the nation for 21 months spanning 2017-2018. The market has cooled in recent months as more housing inventory comes online and fears of a recession loom. The city’s transportation infrastructure has also felt the squeeze.

That growth is expected to continue. The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates jobs in Seattle will double to 3.4 million by 2050, driven by the tech and service industries.

Based on the newly-released data, Amazon is now the second-largest private employer in Washington, trailing only Boeing, which has nearly 70,000 employees in the state.


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