Walmart Bumps Average Hourly Wage to $17.50 — What Other Worker Retention Efforts Are Coming?

buzbuzzer / Getty Images
buzbuzzer / Getty Images

It takes a whole lot of workers to operate a company as big as Walmart, and the retail giant aims to keep and retain those workers by offering higher pay and other perks.

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In a Jan. 24 letter to U.S.-based employees, Walmart CEO John Furner said that beginning next month, the company will “begin investing in higher wages for associates.” The effort includes a mix of regular yearly pay increases and higher minimum wages that will bring Walmart’s U.S. average hourly wage to more than $17.50. The pay hikes will kick in beginning on March 2, 2023.

In addition, the minimum wage for Walmart store employees will rise to $14 an hour from $12 an hour, CNBC reported, citing comments from a Walmart spokesperson. Beginning in March, store employees will earn between $14 and $19 an hour, up from $12 to $18 currently.

Walmart has about 1.7 million workers in the United States – the most of any private employer – and nearly all of them (94%) are hourly employees, CNN reported. The retailer has long faced criticism from labor groups for its low pay, but that has changed in recent years amid a move by Walmart to hike wages so it can better compete with rivals such as Target, Amazon and Costco.

As CNN noted, dozens of companies, including Walmart, have laid off corporate staff in recent months. But because of strong demand for service industry workers, employers have been forced to offer higher pay and other perks just to fill payrolls. Walmart has nearly 30,000 store jobs listed on its hiring website.

Nationally, the number of job openings stood at a historically high 10.5 million in November, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s much higher than the 6 million people who were unemployed that month.

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For its part, Walmart is offering more than just higher pay to lure workers. Here are some of the other perks it is rolling out:

  • Continued investments in Auto Care Center (ACC) employees. Last fall Walmart created a higher-paying Auto Care Center coach role. It now plans to introduce a higher-paying ACC team lead position and raise the pay of ACC tech employees to reflect the special skills needed for the role.

  • New college degrees and certificates for Walmart’s Live Better U (LBU) education program. The new options are designed to help employees gain the skills needed to unlock new career opportunities. Both part-time and full-time associates can participate in LBU on their first day and Walmart will pay 100% of the tuition and fees.

  • Expansion of the Associate-to-Driver Program. Under this program, Walmart foots the bill for supply-chain associates to earn their commercial driver’s licenses and become Walmart truck drivers earning up to $110,000 in their first year. The program was also recently made available to store associates.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Walmart Bumps Average Hourly Wage to $17.50 — What Other Worker Retention Efforts Are Coming?