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Amazon added 159,500 people this quarter. (GeekWire Chart)

Amazon added a whopping 159,500 employees in the last quarter, pushing its total employment to 541,900 people worldwide, according to new numbers from the tech giant released today.

Amazon’s headcount grew 77 percent over this time last year, and a big reason for that is the completion of Amazon’s blockbuster deal to buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion and the acquisition of e-commerce company Souq. The Whole Foods deal includes 87,000 people who worked at the grocery chain, making up a big chunk of the employment growth this quarter. Even factoring out the acquisitions of Whole Foods and Souq, Amazon’s headcount climbed 47 percent over this time last year.

“Certainly hiring continues to remain strong, especially in the tech areas and sales force, particularly in AWS,” Amazon’s CFO Brian Olsavsky said on a call with reporters.

For perspective, Google’s entire workforce totaled 78,101 at the end of the third quarter, approximately half the amount Amazon added in the last three months.. Microsoft employed 124,293 people as of the end of its fiscal year in June.

Amazon’s total employment this quarter is roughly on par with the population of the city of Albuquerque, N.M.

Much of Amazon’s eye-popping growth happened in the last decade, as the retail giant had just 20,000 employees nine years ago, and 81,000 five years ago. Amazon has doubled its headcount in just the past five quarters.

Amazon’s growth has propelled the retail giant to become the country’s second-largest employer behind Walmart. But in terms of total employment, Amazon remains well behind Walmart, its chief competitor on a number of fronts. Walmart employs 2.3 million people worldwide.

Amazon’s other huge announcement this quarter, the plan to build a second North American headquarters, will bring another 50,000 jobs to the winning bidder. The announcement solicited 238 bids from cities across the continent, but HQ2’s potential employment represents less than 10 percent of today’s total workforce, and who knows how many people Amazon will employ when it starts building HQ2 in 2019 or when it finishes up eight to 10 years later.

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