Walmart Inc. said it would raise wages for about 425,000 of its employees after a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic boosted its business and demand for workers who handle online orders.
The company reported strong holiday sales but predicted slower growth and higher spending this year. U.S. comparable sales, or those from stores and digital channels operating for at least 12 months, rose 8.6% in the quarter ended Jan. 29, an acceleration from the third quarter, when sales climbed 6.4%, and higher than most analysts’ forecasts. U.S. e-commerce sales, which include online grocery orders, increased 69% from a year earlier.
The country’s largest private employer said it would raise pay for hourly U.S. workers to an average above $15 an hour, up from an average above $14 in January 2020. Its minimum starting wage for U.S. workers will remain at $11 an hour. Walmart employs about 1.5 million hourly U.S. workers and 2.2 million people world-wide.
Walmart has been competing with Amazon.com Inc. and others for warehouse workers and other staff that are handling a surge in online orders during the pandemic. Amazon raised its starting U.S. wage to $15 an hour in 2018 and hired 500,000 people last year to bring its global workforce to 1.3 million. Both companies also doled out bonuses to many of their staffers last year.
The pay raises will be for store workers in digital and stocking roles, said Walmart U.S. Chief Executive John Furner. That targets roles that have been especially important during the pandemic, including workers that gather products from store shelves for online orders picked up in parking lots or delivered to homes. Walmart has worked to keep shelves stocked as shoppers stockpile certain items such as food and cleaning supplies.