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The day that shall not be named (that’s a spam filter joke)

People shop at the Toronto Premium Outlets mall on Black Friday for shopping sales during the COVID-19 pandemic in Milton, Ont., Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Halton and York region is still open for in person shopping as Toronto and Peel are in lockdown. The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette
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1.2 million: That’s the size to which Amazon’s global workforce has grown during the pandemic, up more than 50 per cent from last year, according to a report published Friday by The New York Times. And it keeps growing. 

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity for holiday celebrations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was expected to result in an unprecedented Black Friday shopping frenzy for e-commerce companies like Amazon and Shopify, with its emphasis on getting small- and medium-sized businesses selling online.

Already a pandemic winner, Amazon prepared for a socially distant Black Friday that’s likely to boost its business even more by hiring an average of over a thousand workers a day. Starting in January, it scooped up about 1,400 new employees daily, and hastened that pace as the pandemic spread, with about 2,800 staff brought on each day starting in July. The new workers mostly staff warehouses, fulfilling online orders. The total figure should actually be even higher, as it doesn’t account for employee churn, or the 100,000 temporary workers it’s hired for the holidays, and roughly 500,000 delivery drivers who are Amazon contractors.

Here are some other big numbers on this Black Friday:

US$10 billion: Black Friday sales in the U.S. are expected to clear this milestone for the first time this year, according to eMarketer’s prediction. That would be a nearly 40 per cent year-over-year bump. Adobe also anticipated US$12.7 billion for Cyber Monday and noted US$5.1 billion in sales on Thanksgiving itself.

5: The number of continents on which “strikes, protests, and stunts” against Amazon are taking place today, according to James Schneider, communications director for Progressive International. The group is part of a global “Make Amazon Pay” campaign demanding better worker conditions, including measures like a pay increase, job security and sustainable operations. Throughout the pandemic the company has faced accusations it’s put profits before people. In October, Amazon said nearly 20,000 of its American workers had or were presumed to have contracted COVID-19. Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told The Verge that the company encourages “anyone interested in the facts to compare our overall pay and benefits, as well as our speed in managing the crisis, to other retailers and major employers across the country.” On Thanksgiving, the company did announce a bonus for frontline workers in the U.S. of US$150 or US$300, depending on full- or part-time status.

17,000: The rough number of orders-per-minute Shopify was processing around midday Friday, according to its annual Black Friday live-tracker. Those transactions represented about US$1.65 million in sales per minute.

9: The number of days before Christmas that multiple major U.S. mail carriers stop guaranteeing that ground-delivery orders will arrive before the holiday, leading some observers to predict Amazon may face a second Black Friday-style surge on December 16.