FedEx Corp.'s sorting facility at Los Angeles International Airport is a maze of chutes, ladders and catwalks, capable of processing more than 300 packages a minute.
And in the pre-dawn hours Monday -- which FedEx projected would be the busiest in its history -- it was going full force.
“With the Internet now, that volume is just flying off the hook,” said manager Alex Johnson, 55, speaking above the loud whir of machinery and steady thud of vehicles in motion around him.
All that activity is yet another sign that the economy is coming back from the dregs of the recession and its long aftermath.
Shoppers will spend an estimated $586.1 billion during the holidays this year, up 4.1% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
By Monday afternoon, FedEx estimated that it had shipped 19 million pack- ages, a 10% increase from its busiest day last year. The company predicted that it would deliver a record 280 million parcels worldwide from Thanksgiving to Christmas, assisted by 20,000 seasonal hires.
Other shippers estimated that they also would have their busiest holiday season in years.
United Parcel Service Inc. said it expected its holiday shipping to increase 10% this year to 527 million packages. UPS planned to deliver 28 million packages Dec. 20, its projected peak day, and has hired 55,000 seasonal employees to try to ensure on-time delivery.
The U.S. Postal Service said that it anticipates a 20% increase in packages from Thanksgiving to Christmas this year and that it will process a projected 658 million letters and parcels on its forecasted peak day, Dec. 17.
At the FedEx facility, workers were unloading giant steel shipping containers holding hundreds of boxes, newly plucked from jetliners. Mechanical arms sent packages marked with company names, or simply “Season’s Greetings,” pirouetting down a side ramp. Spry human “jammers” swung precariously from railings, jumping down onto the ramps to prevent backups and to funnel the boxes to the sorters below.
One of the jammers, Arvel Boyd, 20, has been working for FedEx for 10 months. He was perspiring heavily as he worked, even though at 3:30 a.m. the warehouse, open to the tarmac, was chilly.
“It’s a workout,” Boyd said. “Plus, I get paid for it.”
Times writer Shan Li contributed to this report.