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Updated with comments from Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky.

Amazon’s worldwide employment exceeded 306,000 people in the third quarter — surpassing 300,000 employees for the first time as the Seattle-based tech company dramatically expands its reach across the digital and physical worlds, growing far beyond its roots as an online bookseller.

The new number, which includes full- and part-time employees but not temporary workers, represents a 14 percent increase from the second quarter of this year. The employee growth was disclosed a short time ago in Amazon’s third quarter financial results, as its profits fell significantly short of expectations.

Amazon Doppler
Amazon’s colorful Doppler office tower is on the first of four blocks the company is developing in the Denny Triangle area of Seattle. (Kurt Schlosser / GeekWire)

At this pace, Amazon’s employee base will soon be three times the size of Microsoft direct workforce, which has fallen to less than 114,000 employees amid a series of cutbacks by the Redmond company. Amazon’s headcount is already four times the size of Google parent Alphabet’s nearly 70,000 employees.

But direct comparisons to other tech companies are quickly becoming difficult, as Amazon builds out its network of distribution centers around the world. Walmart, by comparison, employs 2.3 million people.

Amazon’s employment has increased more than six-fold over the past five years. The company employed 51,000 people as of the third quarter of 2011.

Addressing the employment growth on a conference call with reporters, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky cited factors including an expansion of the company’s operations capacity to handle strong growth in its retail and Fulfilment By Amazon service. In addition, he said the company is “embarking on a program to convert more of our temporary employees to full-time positions.”

Hiring is strong in the company’s warehouses. Amazon opened 18 fulfillment centers during the quarter, further driving up costs. The previous high mark was 11 fulfillment centers opened in third quarter of 2012.

Other areas of employment growth include Echo and Alexa, Amazon Web Services, Amazon Logistics, the AmazonFresh grocery service and the Prime Now fast delivery service, Olsavsky said.

“There’s a lot of hiring to support the projects that we’re investing in,” he said. “A lot of them are in operations, but there’s certainly a lot here in Seattle and other office roles.”

The company now reports 30,000 employees in Washington state, including its Seattle headquarters. The company has been expanding rapidly in the urban core, constructing a new office campus north of downtown Seattle, in addition to its existing headquarters in the South Lake Union neighborhood.


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