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Amazon’s hiring spree during the pandemic has come to an end as the tech giant looks to curb expenses amid slowing demand and rising costs across its business.

The company’s headcount grew by 21,000 employees during the third quarter, as revealed in its most recent earnings report.

That pales in comparison to the same period in 2021, when Amazon added 133,000 workers, and in 2020, when it added 248,500 people.

Amazon’s total direct workforce is now 1.54 million, which is up 5% year-over-year.

The Seattle tech giant saw shares fall by nearly 20% Thursday after issuing a lower-than-expected guidance for the holiday quarter.

On a call with reporters, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said the company is preparing for “what could be a slower growth period” due to increased foreign currency headwinds, global inflation, heightened fuel prices, and rising energy costs.

To help mitigate slowing sales, Olsavsky said Amazon is “taking actions to tighten our belt,” including pausing hiring in certain businesses and shutting down products and services.

“We’re going to be very careful on our hiring,” he said.

Olsavsky also said “we have seen inflation in our wages this year,” particularly with technical employees.

Amazon is reportedly freezing hiring for corporate roles in its retail business.

Amazon’s direct workforce declined by 99,000 employees from the first to the second quarter, the largest sequential drop in its history, after overstaffing its warehouses to handle pandemic-driven demand. The decline was primarily due to attrition in Amazon’s fulfillment and distribution network.

The sequential quarterly decline in employment is a notable indication of the turnover taking place in Amazon’s warehouses. Normally the company would hire to backfill positions, making the departures less apparent.

Other tech giants that also grew headcount rapidly during the pandemic are slowing or freezing hiring, including Microsoft, which said this week that its headcount growth during the current quarter will be “minimal.”

Amazon’s direct employment does not include those who work for the company’s third-party vendors, partners, and contractors, such as drivers who work for independent companies that deliver packages in Amazon-branded vans.

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