Thursday September 20th, 2018 8:48AM

Walmart raises starting wages, handing out bonuses

By The Associated Press
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BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Walmart, the world's largest private employer, is boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers to $11 an hour, giving a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000 to eligible employees and expanding its maternity and parental leave benefits.

The retailer said Thursday that changes to its compensation and benefits policy will impact more than a million hourly workers in the U.S. The company employs 1.5 million people in the U.S.

The wage increase, up from $9 per hour for new workers, comes into play next month.

The company is also creating a new benefit to assist employees with adoption expenses.

CEO Doug McMillon said in prepared statement that recently enacted tax legislation "gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.

Large employers have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.

The nation's unemployment rate has sat at 4.1 percent for three months now, the lowest level since 2000. The average for hourly earnings rose 2.5 percent in December from a year earlier. Still, that's about a full percentage point lower than is typical in a healthy economy.

The pay hike at Walmart follows similar actions at rival Target Corp. Target raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 in October, and will raise wages to $15 by the end of 2020.

The wage increase announced Thursday by Walmart benefits all hourly U.S. workers within its stores, Sam's Clubs, eCommerce, logistics and home office.

Walmart said that the one-time bonus will be given to all eligible full and part-time hourly U.S. employees. The amount of the bonus will be based on length of service. Workers with at least 20 years qualify for a $1,000 bonus.

Walmart on Thursday promised full-time hourly U.S. employees 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried employees will also receive six weeks of paid parental leave.

The Bentonville, Arkansas, company also promised help with adoptions, offering full-time hourly and salaried workers $5,000 per child that can be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.

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