With its sky-high staff turnover rate, Amazon fears it could run out of US workers by 2024, an anxiety that could force higher wages or increased automation. That's according to leaked internal research from mid-2021 as seen by Recode. "If we continue business as usual, Amazon will deplete the available labor supply in the US network by 2024," it reads, according to the outlet. As the Guardian reports, the nation's second largest private employer was losing about 3% of its workforce each week, or 150% each year, before the pandemic. That's more than double the annual average turnover rate in transportation, warehousing and utilities (49% in 2021) and retail (65%).
Amazon worried about exhausting the entire available labor pool—based on income levels, proximity to Amazon facilities, and other factors—in Phoenix, Ariz., by the end of 2021 and in California's Inland Empire region, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, by the end of this year, according to the memo. A former manager tells Recode that Amazon stopped enforcing workplace policies in Phoenix as a result and "it was almost impossible to get fired as a worker." But an Amazon rep tells the Guardian that the memo is only a draft document, used to "look at different possible scenarios." "It doesn't represent the actual situation, and we are continuing to hire well in Phoenix, the Inland Empire, and across the country."
Still, CEO Jeff Bezos—who once said the high turnover meant workers wouldn't become complacent—noted "we need to do a better job for our employees" in a letter to shareholders in April 2021. "We are going to be Earth's Best Employer and Earth’s Safest Place to Work," he added. Per Recode, Amazon "emphasizes worker productivity over just about everything else," with staffers complaining of unreasonable performance goals, burnout, and work-related injuries. A report from the Strategic Organizing Center, released this past April, found Amazon's serious injury rate was 6.8 per 100 workers in 2021, more than twice the average of 3.3 per 100 workers in the warehousing industry, and up 20% from the year before. (Read more Amazon stories.)