ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — Brandon Williams arrived at an Amazon fulfillment center here, about an hour outside of Chicago, around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, one of thousands across the country who turned up for the company’s first Jobs Day. While he appeared to wilt slightly during the five hours he waited before an M.C. summoned him for a tour, his enthusiasm did not wane.
“What’s not great about a company that keeps building?” he said, seated in a huge tent the company erected in the parking lot as a kind of makeshift waiting room.
The event was a vivid illustration of the ascendance of Amazon, the online retail company that, to a far greater extent than others in the tech industry, has a seemingly insatiable need for human labor to fuel its explosive growth.
Like other tech giants, Amazon is recruiting thousands of people with engineering and business degrees for high-paying jobs. But the vast majority of Amazon’s hiring is for what the company calls its “fulfillment network” — the armies of people who pick and pack orders in warehouses and unload and drive delivery trucks, and who take home considerably smaller incomes.
The event on Wednesday, held at a dozen locations including Romeoville, Ill., was intended to help fill 50,000 of those lower-paying positions, 40,000 of them full-time jobs.
Those high-low distinctions did not seem to bother the attendees of the jobs fair, many of them united in the conviction that Amazon represented untapped opportunity — that a foot in the door could lead to a career of better-compensated, more satisfying work, whether in fulfillment, I.T., marketing or even fashion.
Mr. Williams, a military veteran studying computer network security at a nearby community college, said he hoped to eventually work his way up to an I.T. job with Amazon. But even those whose ambitions were more in line with the vast majority of available jobs could not hide their excitement.
Victor Salgado, who makes $10.75 per hour with no benefits doing maintenance at an aerosol company and spent three years before that grouting floors, said he was attracted by the promise of an upgrade in pay and benefits. He said he would be willing to “do anything” at Amazon.
“A record-breaking 20,000 applications were received on this day alone,” said John Olsen, an Amazon human resources vice president, “with thousands of job offers extended to candidates and more to…