A Gap in Open Jobs

As the economy reckons with the global health pandemic and the effects of capitalism in crisis, the amount and types of open jobs available are key statistics to look at. This is what prompted me to write yesterday’s post on the real state of employment. This morning I read the following article by LinkedIn, which outlined a list of companies hiring right now.

I took a deeper look at the top five companies on the list and the jobs at scale they are hiring to get a sense of these jobs.

Here are the top five companies on the list and their hiring plans.1

  1. Target plans to hire approximately 130,000 seasonal team members for 2020.
  2. Amazon says it’s hiring more than 100,000 people.
  3. UPS is hiring more than 100,000 people for open positions.
  4. FedEx is hiring people for more than 70,000 roles, including seasonal.
  5. McDonald’s is hiring people for more than 50,000 roles.
Amazon delivery worker, Lower Manhattan, April 4th, 2020. Photo: Brett Wallace

I looked at each of these jobs across several categories –

  • Were these jobs posted on LinkedIn?
  • What do these jobs entail?
  • Why are they hiring at scale?
  • What is the employee turnover?
  • What are the starting wages?
  • What are the basic qualifications?
CompanyJobs to FillJobs Posted on LinkedInJob TypesWhy are they hiring?Annual turnover rateWagesQualifications
Target130,0004,985Seasonal roles: sales and serviceSeasonal demandNot publishedWages starting at $15/hour*A diploma or resume is not required
Amazon100,00025,778Seasonal roles: pack and deliver ordersSeasonal demand96% for full and part-time workers (independent study)Wages starting at $15/hourHigh school, GED, or equivalent diploma
UPS100,00012,152Seasonal roles: deliverySeasonal demand150% (independent study)Average wage is $14.16/hourMinimum age qualifications, certain physical demands
FedEx70,0002818Seasonal roles: package handlersSeasonal demandNot published.Average wage is $13.66/hourMinimum age requirement of 16
McDonald’s50,00015097Crew and management positions, part-time and full-timeLikely due to high turnover80-90% – Richard Floersch, CHRO, McDonald’sWages starting at $8.30/hourNo requirements listed

The Gap

What I found is not all that surprising, but it reinforces the wide gap in jobs available. These hundreds of thousands of open jobs (listed above) share several common traits –

  • They are not represented on LinkedIn. Target lists 4,985 on LinkedIn out of 130,000 jobs it is looking to fill. Given LinkedIn is a professional network, this leads to a sense that these jobs fall outside the boundary line of what the hiring industry would refer to as “professional.”
  • These are entry-level positions with limited mobility. In the case of McDonald’s, they make a clear distinction in career pathways by dividing restaurant jobs versus corporate careers under the golden arches (pictured below). As a follow on to this post, I would like to look into the upskilling initiatives happening (or not) at the entry-level of these companies to get a better sense of job mobility.
  • The pay is near minimum wages. Starting wages in these jobs were at or just above the U.S. minimum wage in most states.2
  • They have astonishingly high turnover rates. While these companies are not publishing employee turnover data for obvious reasons, independent studies and industry data have pointed to employee turnover of 100% or more annually. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for August 2020, out of 917,000 hires, there were 823,000 job separations in the retail sector. 3
  • These jobs are about intensity and control. The mode of work in these jobs is largely one of intensity where employees are standing or moving all day, and burnout is unending. Also, these jobs at organized and monitored at the task level. The objective is to do a repeatable task over and over again, as fast as possible.

In essence, the organization of work and scientific management of these jobs is quite different than the jobs you may find in what McDonald’s calls their “corporate career.” I say this knowing full well over the last 100 years capitalism has steadily pulled more and more jobs, from the factory to the office, into its tightly controlled mode of production.

Photo: https://careers.mcdonalds.com/us

21st Century Capitalism

In 21st-Century, companies like Amazon and others mentioned above don’t have a big incentive to improve the minimum wages or retention for these entry-level jobs for a few reasons –

  • Intensity and control raise productivity even if or until employees break. And, when they break, there is a surplus army of reserved workers ready to fill an open role.
  • Automation technology is not yet inexpensive enough to completely replace these jobs. But, that is where new company investments will go in these companies instead of higher wages and better benefits for entry-level workers.
  • The law of the capitalist mode of production is the accumulation of surplus profit. Therefore, investors and executives at these companies know very well that the more you pay thousands of workers for the same relative productivity, the less surplus profit you realize.

Minding the Gap

Earlier this year, we saw a clear example of vertical integration and solidarity between the corporate office and the warehouse. On May 4th, Tim Bray, ex-VP, and Distinguished Engineer of Web Services resigned from Amazon based on the company’s treatment of warehouse workers and its firing of several leaders of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ). Bray explained:

“And at the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response. It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential. Only that’s not just Amazon, it’s how 21st-century capitalism is done.4

On May 1, 2020, the day Tim Bray resigned, I took the following photo at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, where Amazon fulfillment workers, transit workers, and healthcare workers, were protesting about the lack of PPE in the warehouse.

Mayday, JFK8 – Amazon Fulfillment Center. Staten Island, NY. May 1, 2020. Photo: Brett Wallace

This kind of employee-based vertical integration is important because not all employees are treated as expendable.

A Different Picture

When you look at the bottom of the LinkedIn list where companies are hiring 100 or so employees the picture of the type of employment is nearly the opposite.

  • You see companies like Squarespace or SpaceX hiring engineers, graphic designers, marketers, and IT professionals.
  • The salary data reflect annual salaries, not hourly wages, and is substantially higher. According to Indeed, salary data on Squarespace showed ~$70,000 per year for a Marketing Coordinator and ~$260,000 per year for an Engineering Lead.5
  • These companies are posting the majority of these open roles on LinkedIn.
  • While the proletarianization of the professional is real, these jobs don’t appear nearly as expendable. This is why Mr. Bray’s example stands out – he took direct action against how lower-level employees of Amazon were treated.

Conclusion

There is a large gap in the types of available jobs, and the lived experiences of those jobs in 21st capitalism. The spectrum can be seen from the top to bottom of the LinkedIn Who’s Hiring list. In mega enterprises, such as Target and Amazon, the gap between entry-level work and corporate careers in the same company is massive. The gap includes differences in wages, expendability, treatment, conditions, and organization of work. Unless such a gap of conditions and lived experience can be closed from entry-level roles to the corporate career, whether through automation, upward mobility, more equal income distribution, the creation of better jobs, or other means, we will continue to see rampant economic inequality. The ultimate question in my mind – can 21st-century capitalism close that gap? I have my own answer to that.

Footnotes

  1. Seaman, Andrew, “Here’s who’s hiring right now,” accessed via the Internet, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heres-whos-hiring-right-now-andrew-seaman/, October 29th, 2020
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, “State Minimum Wage Laws“, accessed via the Internet, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/minimum-wage/state, October 29th, 2020
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Retail Trade: NAICS 44-45“, accessed via the Internet, https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag44-45.htm, October 29th, 2020
  4. Bray, Tim, “Bye, Amazon”, accessed via the Internet, https://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/202x/2020/04/29/Leaving-Amazon, October 29th, 2020
  5. Indeed.com, “Squarespace Salaries in the U.S.”, accessed via the Internet, https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Squarespace/salaries#:~:text=The%20average%20Squarespace%20salary%20ranges,in%20the%20past%2036%20months, October 29th, 2020