More than 1.2 million Walmart employees will get a raise this Saturday.
The company will boost its minimum wage to $10 an hour from $9. But it's not just minimum wage workers who are getting raises. The change applies to virtually all of its hourly workers, including some supervisors, which make up the majority of the company's 1.4 million U.S. workers.
The wage hike will boost a full-time worker's average hourly wage by 3% to $13.38. Part-timers will get an an average hourly wage of $10.58, up 6%.
This is the second step of a two-phase increase announced last year. The company also said it's changed its scheduling procedures to give workers more advanced notice of their shifts, and has increased the paid time off.
The changes do not come cheap -- they will cost the company an additional $1.5 billion this year, on top of the $1.2 billion that last year's wage hikes.
Walmart, which employs more workers than any other U.S. company, has become a focal point in the debate about the nation's minimum wage. "Making Change at Walmart," a union-backed group, has called for a $15 minimum wage and has called the increased wages at the chain a "publicity stunt." Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders regularly attacks Walmart wages in his campaign stump speech.
Walmart officials declined to comment on those criticisms.
But Walmart's motivation for the pay increases is far more economic than political. Unemployment is at a seven-year low, which has made finding and hanging onto workers harder for every employer, many of which have hiked wages and benefits.
There are currently a record number of job openings in the U.S. And the number of workers quitting their jobs, another sign of strength in the labor market, is at pre-recession levels. U.S. wages are growing at their best pace in six years.
Walmart is in the process of closing 269 stores worldwide, 154 of which are in the U.S. About 10,000 U.S. jobs will be lost, though Walmart says it should be able to place most of the affected workers at other stores nearby.