Walmart Inc. is trying harder to win the frontline worker — upping its minimum wage to $14 an hour from $12 and talking up its potential as a career starter.
John Furner, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., told associates in a memo that “we know our people make the difference.”
“And as you continue to focus on your customers, we’re focused on investing in you — our store associates — through higher wages and new opportunities to gain the skills to serve tomorrow’s customers and grow a career with Walmart,” Furner said.
Next month, the retail giant’s U.S. average hourly wages will top $17.50 with a mixture of annual pay increases and higher starting rates at thousands of its stores.
Walmart has been working harder to keep and attract workers — paying for college degrees and strengthening new career pathways like its Associate-to-Driver Program that helps workers earn their commercial driver’s licensing, with the potential to earn up to $110,000 in their first year of driving.
While the retail giant is well ahead of the federal minimum wage — which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009 — it is getting its broader workforce in line with pay already mandated in some states. New York’s minimum wage, for instance, is $14.20.
But where Target has about 450,000 employees overall, Walmart employs 2.3 million globally.
That gives Walmart the fourth-largest workforce on the planet, behind only the defense forces of India (3 million strong), the U.S. (2.9 million) and China (2.6 million), according to Statista.
Changes made to Walmart’s pay schedule can carry real weight.
And Furner made his pitch that a job at Walmart can be a career.
“No matter where you are in your journey, getting your start here can open doors — the first step into jobs that become careers and build better lives,” he said.
Even at a time when the tech industry has been laying off workers en masse, retailers might be upping their game to staff stores at a time when unemployment is still very low at 3.5 percent, despite the Federal Reserve’s best efforts to cool the economy with higher interest rates.
Earlier this month outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas noted that U.S. retailers added 519,400 jobs in the fourth quarter, a 26 percent drop from the 701,400 spots added a year earlier and the slowest growth since 2009.
“Employers had a lot of challenges entering the holiday season. They needed to account for the possibility of inflation-related low spending, as well as whether they would be able to actually find the talent to fill positions,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
“After years of attempts to recruit and retain workers, it is possible retailers had the necessary staff going into the 2022 holiday season. It’s also very possible retailers wanted to hire more, but couldn’t find the talent,” Challenger said.