A combination of regular annual increases and “targeted investments in starting rates” by Walmart will raise the average hourly pay of its workers above $17.50, according to a memo shared with the retailer’s U.S. employees by Walmart U.S. President and CEO John Furner.
“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 wrote.
The retailer is adding new college degrees and certificates to its Live Better U (LBU) education program, available to part-time and full-time associates on their first day, for which Walmart pays 100% of tuition and fees. Walmart also is expanding its Associate-to-Driver program, which pays for supply chain workers to earn commercial driver’s licenses as a step toward becoming a Walmart truck driver and earning up to $110,000 per year. The retailer announced earlier this month that store associates also would be eligible for this program.
Retail hourly pay has been on a slow-but-steady upward trend for the past few years, fueled by COVID-19, low unemployment and historically high inflation. Target was among the first major retailers to raise its minimum wage to $15, in June 2020. In October 2021, Starbucks announced plans to raise its minimum wage to $17 per hour by summer 2022, and in November 2021 Macy’s committed to a $15 minimum wage chainwide by May 2022.
Media reports said Apple would raise its minimum wage to $22 per hour in May 2022, and Amazon promised pay increases to frontline employees this past fall that would raise the company’s average hourly wage above $19 from $18.
Walmart has generally lagged other major retailers in raising wages — it was September 2021 before the retailer raised its minimum wage to $12 per hour — so this announcement could signal the retailer’s attempt to get out in front of its competitors in the race for talent. Additionally, since Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer, any movement it makes on wages will cause ripple effects throughout the economy.