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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Amazon is in the midst of a hiring spree unprecedented in American corporate history. It's a show of force that, if history is any guide, will be extraordinarily difficult to compete with.

By the numbers: Amazon has been doing extremely well during the coronavirus pandemic. In the six months from April through September this year it made a profit of $11.6 billion. That's up from $4.8 billion in the same period of 2019, and a mere $450 million in those six months of 2017.

  • What's astonishing about those results is that they come during a period of greatly increased costs. Amazon isn't just hiring aggressively; it also has to keep all those new hires safe in the face of a pandemic, while also staying true to its 2019 promise that it would deliver almost everything to Prime members in just one day.

Driving the news: Amazon has increased its workforce by well over 400,000 people this year alone, bringing total headcount to more than 1.2 million. On top of that number, NYT reports that some 600,000 temporary workers and delivery drivers are now working for Amazon.

  • No company has ever expanded this fast — and the fact that Amazon is adding so aggressively to its full-time workforce shows that the retailer sees this growth as permanent, rather than being a temporary artifact of the pandemic.
  • The message is clear: Amazon is intent on taking advantage of the pandemic to increase its competitive advantage over all other retailers, to build an all but insurmountable gap.

Flashback: Amazon did something similar following the dot-com crash of 2000. While its competitors were struggling to stay alive, Amazon spent three years building developer tools and APIs that would give quick and easy access to Amazon's computation, database, and storage capabilities.

  • At first, the project was designed just for internal use, but eventually it was expanded to be available to anyone.
  • By the time Amazon launched its first cloud-computing product, EC2, in 2006, it was effectively six years ahead of any competition — and it took another few years for other companies to even try to compete in what is now known as "the cloud".
  • Amazon's cloud business, AWS, made $3.5 billion of net profit on its own in the third quarter of 2020. That's 56% of the company's consolidated net income.

The bottom line: Amazon is the one mega-cap company that has real capacity to absorb and reinvest the massive profits that it's throwing off. It has never paid a dividend, and it hasn't bought back any of its own stock since 2012. Instead, it's building a seemingly invincible real-world army.

Go deeper

Parler shows signs of life

Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Far-right-friendly social network Parler is beginning to resurface after going dark last week following a series of bans by Google, Apple and Amazon.

The big picture: By tapping service providers that are friendly to far-right sites, Parler — home to a great deal of pro-insurrection chatter before, during and after the Capitol siege — may have found a way to survive despite Big Tech's efforts to pull the plug.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
36 mins ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.