• Walmart has begun hiring 20,000 seasonal associates to meet an expected boom in online orders during the holidays
  • The retail giant has already hired 500,000 people since March and wants to hire 150,000 more
  • Online sales have skyrocketed since the coronavirus pandemic and are expected to increase during the holidays

Walmart, the world's largest private employer with 2.2 million employees, will see its head count rise by 20,000 before the Christmas holidays to cope with the booming demand in online orders.

The Arkansas-based retailer Wednesday announced it is hiring more than 20,000 seasonal associates nationwide. It said the new hires will join its e-commerce fulfillment centers across the country bracing for "an expected increase in online shopping."

Walmart said all its new hires will receive a starting hourly rate ranging from $15.75 to $23.75 based on location, position and schedule. Among the many open positions are order fillers and power-equipment operators.

The company said seasonal employment will begin immediately. Shifts will be scheduled as soon as two days from that date they are hired. Most of these new people will remain with the company only until Jan. 1.

Walmart, however, said in "many instances, these positions might be converted to regular employment." It has hired more than 500,000 people across its stores and supply chain locations since March due to the massive surge in online sales during the coronavirus pandemic, and hopes to hire another 150,000 before the end of the year.

Walmart executive vice president Dan Bartlett indicated surprise at the large volume of goods the company is now moving because of the online surge. Bartlett said Walmart sells enough toilet paper every five days for each American to get one roll.

The online boom being experienced by Walmart, Amazon, UPS, FedEx and a host of other fulfillment firms is borne out by data. U.S. online sales were up 42% in August year-on-year but slower than the 55% jump in July, according to new data from Adobe Analytics. "Buy Online, Pick Up in Store" (BOPIS) sales surged 259% year-on-year while smartphone sales have generated 40% of online sales for the first eight months of the year.

Online sales in August hit $63 billion. Online sales from January to August generated $497 billion. Adobe estimates since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an extra $107 billion spent online.

As of August, there were 130 days this year where online sales exceeded $2 billion. In 2019, only two days saw online sales exceed $2 billion outside of the holiday season.

Data shows most online sales throughout the pandemic likely went to Amazon, ranked No. 1 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

The outside of a Walmart location is pictured here. AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM