By Theo Francis
While Covid-19 ravaged the broader American economy, the largest
U.S. employers added more jobs than they cut.
Overall, global employment rose by about 370,000 people among
the 286 members of the S&P 500 that filed annual reports
between July 1 and March 31, a Wall Street Journal analysis of
securities filings shows.
Those gains masked wrenching changes and job losses for workers
in many companies and industries. And the net gain in jobs for 2020
wouldn't have happened without a single company: Amazon.com
The giant internet retailer added 500,000 workers around the
world during the year -- more than 400,000 of them in the U.S.
Amazon created nearly as many jobs last year as the 136 other
companies in the Journal analysis that added workers.
"By hiring that many people, we were not only able to deliver
essential items for our customers during a critical time, but also
provide an opportunity to those who lost their jobs or saw their
hours cut because of Covid," said Beth Galetti, Amazon's senior
vice president for human resources. "Amazon became an 'employment
beacon' for hundreds of American communities." Workers at an Amazon
warehouse in Alabama are voting on whether to unionize.
The overall U.S. labor market is healing from the pandemic's
shocks. Employers added 916,000 jobs in March, the biggest gain
since August. The unemployment rate fell to 6.0%.
The figures in the Journal analysis reflect global employment.
Most firms don't disclose U.S. employment. Companies don't always
disclose whether staffing changes stem from layoffs, attrition,
deal making or other factors.
For example, PepsiCo Inc.'s addition of 24,000 jobs last year --
a 9% increase over 2019 -- was largely driven by acquisitions,
including SodaStream International Ltd. About 1,300 of Costco
Wholesale Corp.'s 19,000 new jobs came from the acquisition last
year of what is now Costco Logistics, Chief Financial Officer
Richard Galanti said.
Among companies adding workers, the median increase was 6.6%.
Facebook Inc.'s workforce grew by 30%, or almost 14,000 jobs.
Biotech giant Biogen Inc. added 1,700 workers, about 23%.
FedEx Corp.'s staffing increase of 50,000, or 11% -- which
reflects the fiscal year that ended last May -- was driven in large
part by sharply higher demand for e-commerce, a spokesman said.
In all, 133 companies in the Journal analysis shrank their
workforces. Among them, the median decline was 5.1%, and a dozen
companies lost a quarter or more of their workers. Eighteen reduced
their head count by at least 10,000 people.
Deal making resulted in shrinking some workforces. Raytheon
Technologies Corp. and United Technologies Corp. employed 313,200
in 2019, before merging last year and spinning off Otis Worldwide
Corp. and Carrier Global Corp. The spinoffs ended 2020 with a
combined 125,000 workers; Raytheon employed 181,000 on Dec. 31.
About a fifth of the 31,000 workers that General Electric Co.
shed last year went with the sale of its lighting and
biotechnology-supply divisions. Aluminum maker Arconic Inc.
employed 41,700 in 2019, before splitting into two companies in
April 2020: Howmet Aerospace Inc., employing 19,700, and Arconic
Corp., employing 13,400, as of Dec. 31.
The pandemic also took its toll. Marriott International Inc.
staff plummeted with the decrease in hotel stays. After sailings
were suspended, Carnival Corp. shed 34,000 cruise-ship workers,
more than a third of its total, while onshore staff declined by
2,000, or about 14%. Most of Comcast Corp.'s declines came at its
NBCUniversal unit, which curtailed its theme-park operations for
most of the year and underwent a reorganization in the fall. United
Airlines Holdings Inc. early this year hired back about 13,000 of
the 21,600 workers idled in 2020, but the company said that relief
would likely end once federal aid runs out this spring.
More broadly, job losses fell unevenly across sectors. Most tech
and healthcare companies added workers; no energy company in the
Journal analysis did.
Longer-term trends continued to play out as well. Electric-car
maker Tesla Inc. added about 22,700 workers during the year --
handily exceeding the loss of workers reported by larger Detroit
rivals Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.
A GM spokesman said the company is investing heavily in electric
vehicles and plans to add about 2,200 jobs in Michigan and 1,400 to
1,700 in Ontario as it reopens and retools plants, including some
that will produce electric vehicles.
A Ford spokesman said the company is in the process of
refocusing and streamlining its business to modernize and simplify
operations, including for electric-vehicle production.
Even within an industry, employment moves varied. Casino chain
Las Vegas Sands Corp. reported an 8% decline in its workforce. At
MGM Resorts International, which employed significantly more people
in 2019, head count fell by 36%.
With more than 20 casinos in the U.S., including a dozen on the
Las Vegas Strip, MGM is more exposed to the hard-hit American
economy, as well as to tourist travel in the U.S. By contrast, Las
Vegas Sands has increasingly focused on foreign markets, generating
nearly half its 2020 revenue in Macau and a third in Singapore --
and in early March said it would sell off its remaining U.S.
In MGM's proxy statement filed March 26, Chief Executive Bill
Hornbuckle called the company's widespread layoffs and furloughs
painful but necessary as the Las Vegas Strip shut down and
international gambling travel slowed. "We're optimistic that
business will continue picking up and allowing for us to call back
and hire a significant number of employees," an MGM spokesman
Companies hit hard by the pandemic tended to cut more jobs, but
workforce changes and company results didn't always move
Fastenal Co., which distributes bolts and supplies for
construction and industry, reduced its workforce by nearly 1,600
people during the year, or 7.2%. Profit rose 8.6% and shareholders
booked a 36.6% total return, including share-price appreciation and
Much of that staffing decline involved part-time workers, with
full-time employment falling just 2.5% as health restrictions and
reduced demand idled distribution hubs and other operations, said
Holden Lewis, Fastenal's chief financial officer. Many of the
part-timers were out-of-town students who went home when their
colleges closed, he added. And managers didn't fill jobs as
"We leave decisions in the field around head count -- what
happens in any downturn is they wind up letting attrition work for
them," Mr. Lewis said. He said headquarters urged managers to
retain workers where possible.
At the same time, Fastenal's financial results benefited as it
supplied face masks, gloves and other protective gear to existing
and new customers, bypassing its usual distribution network to ship
directly to customers in the interest of speed, he said.
Last spring, "we had no idea what our financials would look
like, but we thought they were going to be a lot worse than they
were," Mr. Lewis said. "We believe we operated with the integrity
of spirit that I think companies in our position should have."
--Inti Pacheco and Thomas Gryta contributed to this article.
Write to Theo Francis at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 04, 2021 05:44 ET (09:44 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.