New distinction for Amazon: Largest employer in N.J.

E-commerce giant, which just announced 7K more jobs, will top 40K employees by end of year, believed to be highest for any company

An Amazon facility. (File photo)

Monday’s announcement that Amazon is hiring another 7,000 workers in New Jersey as part of a nationwide hiring binge means more than just thousands of people in the state getting solid-paying jobs and benefits.

It means Amazon may now be the state’s largest corporate employer.

Amazon, which made its first big impression in the state in 2014 with the opening of a 1.2 million-square-foot fulfillment center in Robbinsville, is expected to have more than 40,000 employees when this latest push is complete. Amazon officials said they hope to fill in the positions in the coming weeks — well before the seasonal rush.

More than 40,000 employees would be good enough to top the three traditional leaders — Wakefern Food Corp., Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health — all of which have approximately 36,000 employees.

The only organizations that are believed to employ more are the state itself (approximately 70,000) and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, which is believed to have just over 40,000 employees.

While the 40,000 mark is impressive, Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty describes Amazon’s impact on the state with a different number: $14.5 billion. That’s the amount she said the company has invested in the state in the past decade.

“That’s not just our investments in our customer fulfillment infrastructure, but also compensation to those employees,” she said.

And, while having 40,000 employees is impressive to New Jersey, it’s just part of the deal at Amazon, which announced this summer it now employs more than 1 million people. Not bad for a company that hired employee No. 100,000 in 2013.

Lighty said New Jersey has one of the highest employee counts in the country — but that it’s only in the Top 10, not at the top. And that can hurt New Jersey.

Because Amazon has so many employees in so many places, it does not necessarily make the type of internal investments other large companies may do. The company engages in many charitable activities near its locations, but it does not take active roles in chambers of commerce, for instance.

Tom Bracken, the head of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, can appreciate the dilemma.

Bracken said he’s eager to engage Amazon on ways it can interact with more of the business community in New Jersey, but understands why they may not be able to act the way other corporate giants do.

“When you’re at that size, you either are very active in every area you are in or only active where you have your headquarters,” he said. “I think that’s the case with Amazon. They are just so big in so many places.”

The good news for New Jersey? There’s no reason to think Amazon’s growth in the state is going to slow anytime soon.

The company opened its 14th fulfillment and sorting center last fall in Burlington. And while there are no announcements of a 15th site, the company has been actively opening delivery stations.

Earlier this month, the company opened a delivery station in West Caldwell (130 full-time jobs), its 10th such location in the state. Seven additional delivery stations are scheduled to open by the end of the year, Amazon spokesperson Emily Hawkins said.

Amazon has not ruled out opening additional fulfillment centers in the state. In fact, its latest model can be established in less space — which would be needed in commercially challenged North Jersey. And state officials are still hoping Amazon will bring some higher-paying high-tech and executive jobs to the state, noting that Newark was one of 20 finalists for Amazon’s HQ2 project.

Lighty said the company is appreciative of its relationship with New Jersey.

“New Jersey is a great place for us to do business,” she said. “We have been investing in the state for more than a decade now, and will continue to do so.”

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