Amazon to add 5,000 warehouse jobs

Amazon on Monday is set to announce plans to hire 5,000 employees in its U.S. distribution warehouses, part of an ambitious growth strategy that has come at a financial cost to the company in the near term.

The announcement comes ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit Tuesday to Amazon’s Chattanooga, Tenn., fulfillment center, where he is expected to outline policy proposals to spur the creation of middle-class jobs.

The online retailer said it will immediately begin hiring at 17 fulfillment centers for tasks that include picking items from warehouse shelves, packing them for delivery and operating new technology installed to streamline operations.

Amazon is the latest tech giant to tout the creation of jobs in the United States. Apple recently announced that it would make some Mac computers domestically.

Some Silicon Valley firms have been criticized in the past for pushing to expand visa programs to bring foreign engineers to the United States, even as they send manufacturing and service-level jobs overseas.

Amazon’s warehouse jobs are full-time positions with benefits including health care, stock awards and retirement savings plans, the company said.

“We’re focused on sustained innovation across Amazon and want to help our employees succeed – whether at Amazon or elsewhere,” said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service.

Amazon’s warehouse hires are part of a long-term strategy to build out its system of distribution centers to more quickly and cheaply deliver orders to consumers. The company has made investments in devices, discount programs, online videos and even robots. Amazon is expected to soon expand its experimental grocery service in Seattle.

The firm said it believes the efforts will pay off in long-term growth.

“We are investing for the large opportunity we have in front of us,” Tom Szkutak, Amazon’s chief financial officer, said in a call with reporters last week ahead of the company’s second-quarter earnings report.

In the near term, the experiments have been costly. Amazon lost $7 million in the quarter, a surprise to analysts who had expected a slight profit. And the firm said losses would continue in the next quarter.

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