American job security is eroding, according to trends at nation's top-10 employers

1 week ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Facts, Features, News

As the midterm elections loom, one of the key talking points is a booming economy and low unemployment numbers.

However, when it comes to America's largest companies, a growth in full-time employment doesn't appear to be accelerating as much as the Republican Party would like us to think. And while retail and fast-food establishments have seen an increase in seasonal and part-time employee counts, America's stalwart technology companies, such as IBM ($NYSE:IBM) and Hewlett-Packard ($NYSE:HPQ), appear to be stagnating and even shrinking their full-time workforces.

These trends are prevelaent on LinkedIn, America's most popular employment-oriented website that tracks what it holds as America's 10 largest employers.

Walmart ($NYSE:WMT)

Walmart employs more than 1.3 million people in the United States alone. According to LinkedIn, about 415,000 say they work for the company with an additional 1,950 who list Jet.com (an e-commerce site now owned by Walmart) as their employer.

Walmart and Jet.com employee count has certainly grown on LinkedIn over the past couple years, along with an adjustment spike for Walmart in late 2017. It's unclear how many of these positions are full-time, temporary, skilled or unskilled, but in both cases, growth hasn't accelerated.

Yum! Brands ($NYSE:YUM)

Yum! brands owns KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, and employed more than 500,000 people by the end of 2012, the majority of whom are hourly workers. Most of Yum!'s locations are outside of the United States; KFC, for instance, is China's largest fast-food chain. KFC, in particular, has shrunk, according to LinkedIn, while other brands appear to have grown at a somewhat regular pace.

Corporate employee count appears to have stagnated a bit in the end of 2018.

McDonalds ($NYSE:MCD)

"At worst, you can flip burgers at McDonalds."

We've all heard that phrase, one that associates working at McDonald's as a last-ditch employment options. By the end of 2012, McDonald's Corp. reported 440,000 employees.

Luckily for hundreds of thousands of employees (most of whom are part time), McDonald's continue to grow with a slightly accelerated employee count on LinkedIn in the past year.

IBM ($NYSE:IBM)

IBM employed nearly half a million people at the end of 2012. Today, that number is estimated to be 366,600.

This shrinking technology giant, once a beacon of American innovation, has had to fight its way into relevancy while playing in the cloud computing and AI games against young innovators like Amazon and Google. While the number of people who list IBM as an employer on LinkedIn has grown as of late, that growth has slowed. Meanwhile, IBM is leaning more on contract worker than ever, offering little job security to those who take on projects.

It's also important to note that, on LinkedIn, approximately 200,000 accounts that claim to be associated with IBM have been flagged as "phantom accounts" — people who claim to work for the company but either no longer do, or never did.

UPS ($NYSE:UPS)

Given America's explosive growth in the e-commerce sector over the past two decades, one would expect a company as well positioned logistically as UPS to reap major benefits. And while UPS is indeed growing, it hasn't seen the kind of accelerated growth that one would expect.

It's also well-known that the company relies heavily on seasonal, temporary workers to match demand. In fact, the company's Supply Chain Solutions division has seen attrition, as has its financial services division, UPS Capital. The company's trendlines match that of other large American companies: reduce long-term worker commitments, turn to seasonal and temporary workers.

NOTE: The jump in employee count in November of last year was the result of a data merge on LinkedIn.

Target ($NYSE:TGT)

Target reported 361,000 employees in 2013. Today, that number is 345,000.

While the number of people claiming Target as an employer on LinkedIn has increased over time, the company — like other on this list — increasingly relies on seasonal and temporary workers to fill its needs. It infamously cut positions at the end of 2017 to meet profit expectations and, in an effort to keep up with Amazon, intends to acquire Shipt, a grocery delivery service. These moves will likely combine to increase the company's reliance on temporary and seasonal workers. 

Kroger ($NYSE:KR)

Supermarket chain Kroger reported 343,000 full-time and part-time workers in 2012. Today, that number is closer to 449,000. But, as you can see in its LinkedIn employee count — which tends to reflect full-time workers — the company appears to have increased its temporary and seasonal workforce at a clip much faster than that of its full-time workforce, despite reporting healthy growth in total sales year over year.

It is now the second-largest supermarket employer in America behind Walmart.

The Home Depot ($NYSE:HD)

In early 2013, The Home Depot employed about 340,000 people — of which only 21,000 were full-time. Today, it reports that it employees about 400,000 people that it calls "Orange-blooded associates".

While that's an impressive jump in growth, the company hasn't accelerated the number of full-time workers it employs. In fact, when it announced employee bonuses last year, it made it very clear that it largely employs hourly workers, some of whom received bonuses of just $200 for working as associated for less than two years (those who worked for the company for more than 20 years received just $1,000).

Hewlett-Packard ($NYSE:HPQ)

In 2013, Hewlett-Packard employed 331,800 people before announcing massive layoffs to the tune of 29,000 full-time employees in 2014. That same year, the company split into Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. Today, HP Inc employs just 55,000 people while Hewlett Packard Enterprise claims 66,000 employees — both a far cry from the company's numbers earlier this decade.

Like IBM, Hewlett-Packard has had a hard time finding its way in an increasingly competitive technology market. Once an employer for hundreds of thousands of full-time American employees, it now outsources much of its work to contracted and part-time consultants.

General Electric ($NYSE:GE)

GE employed 305,000 people in 2012, 134,000 of whom worked in the United States. Today, it claims 313,000 employees after a peak workforce of 333,000 in 2015 — not the direction one would want.

If anything, employment numbers at the one-time aviation and power innovator have stagnated, as the company's LinkedIn employee count shows.

Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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