Amazon announces plans to hike wages to $18 per hour, adding 125,000 new workers to payroll

September 20-26, 2021

By The Daily Record Staff


Amazon Inc., which has expanded in presence in Central Arkansas with the construction of two mammoth fulfillment centers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, on Sept. 14 announced it plans to hike average wages to $18 per hour and hire thousands of part- and full-time workers across the U.S.


The Seattle-based online giant said Tuesday that it is providing an additional 125,000 local employment opportunities throughout the U.S., on top of the 40,000 corporate and technology jobs announced earlier this month. The roles in fulfillment and transportation offer an average starting wage of more than $18 per hour—and up to $22.50 per hour in some locations.


The move comes as Democrats in Congress are pushing to increase the nation’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. Today, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and has not been raised in more than a decade—the longest stretch since it was first set in 1938. Thirty states, the District of Columbia and other cities have established their own minimum pay levels above the federal minimum, as Congress’ attempts have been blocked.


In Arkansas, voters overwhelmingly supported Issue 5 to incrementally hike the state’s minimum wage to $11 per hour during the November 2018 election, first approving a 75 cent per hour wage increase in 2019 to $9.25 per hour for most workers across the state. Under that initiated act, the state’s minimum wage standard rose again to $10 in 2020 and $11 at the beginning of 2021.


Amazon officials said the online conglomerate also provides full-time employees with comprehensive benefits from day one, worth an additional $3.50 per hour. They include health, vision, and dental insurance, 401(k) with 50% company match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave, and Amazon’s Career Choice program, in which the company will pay full college tuition for its front-line employees as part of a $1.2 billion investment to expand education and skills training for its U.S. workforce.


At the Little Rock Port Authority, home to one of Arkansas’ largest industrial parks, Amazon began offering $1,000 bonuses earlier this summer in its effort to attract workers to the mammoth fulfillment center. Today, new employees are now working alongside automated robots to pick, pack and ship small items to customers anywhere.


In July 2020, Amazon first announced it was planning to build a new 825,000 square-foot fulfillment facility that would create over 1,000 new full-time jobs with starting pay at an average of $15 per hour with full benefits. Amazon later followed up those job plans in December 2020 with another announcement that the online retail conglomerate plans to open a million square foot fulfillment center in North Little Rock.


That Amazon facility, which is anticipated to launch later this year, will create over 500 new, full-time jobs that offer full-time employees comprehensive benefits including full medical, vision, and dental insurance as well as a 401(k) with 50% match starting on day one.


“Amazon is grateful for the continued support we’ve received from local and state leaders, and we look forward to leveraging our scale for good to support this great community,” said Alicia Boler Davis, Amazon’s vice president of global customer fulfillment.


Across the globe, Amazon has more than 175 operating fulfillment centers with more than 150 million square feet of space to complete millions of online orders. Sortable centers, such as the one planned for the Port of Little Rock, are usually more than 800,000 square feet and employ up to 1,500 workers. Amazon said hiring for the new roles is already underway and sign-on bonuses of up to $3,000 are available in select locations. 


“Amazon’s job creation efforts will be welcomed by job seekers across America—especially in more rural locations, which are traditionally not the focus of strong retail investment,” said Neil Saunders, managing director and retail analyst for GlobalData Retail, an intelligence and analytics research firm. “Our research has found that salaries for logistics jobs are 16% higher than shop-floor jobs, and a higher percentage of logistics roles have scope for full-time working and provide benefits such as healthcare. In essence, this expansive job creation effort will provide an injection of wealth and opportunity into local areas.”


In 2021, Amazon opened over 250 new fulfillment centers, sortation centers, regional air hubs, and delivery stations in the U.S., and will open over 100 more buildings in September alone. These are investments that can unlock opportunity, helping to revitalize cities and neighborhoods. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon has hired more than 450,000 people in the U.S., and one-in-10 hourly employees who have been with the company six months or longer have been promoted. 


According to U.S. job data, Amazon is now the largest job creator in the U.S., although Arkansas-based Walmart remains the largest employer with over 2.3 million workers on payroll. Amazon is the next largest employer with nearly 1.4 million workers at the end of September.


“We are proud to offer opportunities for people from a range of backgrounds, from furloughed workers to former military personnel,” said Dave Clark, CEO of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon. “We take our responsibility as an employer seriously and want our employees to succeed and thrive. That’s why we offer an average starting wage of over $18 per hour, provide a great range of comprehensive benefits—including healthcare coverage, parental leave, career training, and ways to save for the future—and have a team of thousands working to build a safe and inclusive work environment. Whether you’re looking for a short-term job to make money for the holidays or a long-term career, you’re welcome here, and we look forward to having you on our team.”


In addition to hiring employees for its operations, Amazon said it is also supporting the growth of small and medium-sized businesses and helping to create tens of thousands of additional jobs. Amazon works with more than 2,500 Delivery Service Partners, enabling these aspiring entrepreneurs to build their own delivery companies by leveraging Amazon’s experience in operations and logistics. These partners plan to hire more than 50,000 delivery associates by the end of the year. Interested applicants can find out more information here.


To help job seekers around the country, Amazon hosted a Career Day on Sept. 15. Amazon said the free virtual event will offer 20,000 individual career-coaching sessions with Amazon recruiters to help participants land their next job, as well as thousands of additional sessions for Amazon employees looking to transition to higher-paying roles within the company or elsewhere. 


Attendees will have access to personalized career coaching, insights, advice, and learning opportunities from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and industry-leading experts, and tactical training through coding workshops and breakout sessions.  




Amazon began hiring full-time warehouse associates in May at $15 per hour in Central Arkansas. The Seattle-based online conglomerate announced plans in July and December of 2020 to build fulfillment centers in Little Rock and North Little Rock, respectively. The first 850,000 square foot, robotics-powered factory at the Little Rock Port Authority industrial park is now in operation.