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story.lead_photo.caption This undated file photo shows Wal-Mart's sign in front of its Bentonville headquarters.

BENTONVILLE — Wal-Mart, 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.

[RELATED STORY: Sam's Club to close about 50 stores, convert several others into e-commerce centers]

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 Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart benefits all hourly U.S. workers within its stores, Sam's Clubs, eCommerce, logistics and home office.

Wal-Mart 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.

Wal-Mart 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 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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  • JIMBOB47
    January 11, 2018 at 9:50 a.m.

    Here is the difficult part -- all those currently on the payroll who earn LESS than the $11 starting wage are 'in the middle'. How much will it cost WMart to boost these folks up to $11? Watch for incremental price increases -- the customer ALWAYS end up paying for these increases. Business is business...!

  • MaxCady
    January 11, 2018 at 11:54 a.m.

    Hardly a living wage. Can't give the working man too much money or they might get a little power.

  • GeneralMac
    January 11, 2018 at 12:12 p.m.

    Travis Bickle............there are many employees at Walmart making a living wage.

    There has to be an incentive to move up from entry level.

  • Delta123
    January 11, 2018 at 12:17 p.m.

    What does that mean, "Living Wage"?

  • RBear
    January 11, 2018 at 12:31 p.m.

    GM, do you have a breakdown of the wage levels for non-corporate or divisional employees?
    Livable wage means the ability to support a family.

  • GeneralMac
    January 11, 2018 at 12:42 p.m. has been many decades since one entry level retail employee's wage could support a family.
    ( your definition of a living wage )

  • MaxCady
    January 11, 2018 at 12:57 p.m.

    Google is your friend, Delta123. I typed in "living wage" and the top 2 stories were the WalMart raising the wage to $11. Educate yourself why don't you?

  • RBear
    January 11, 2018 at 1:01 p.m.

    GM, hence the problem. It has been decades since the minimum wage has been raised to something that can support a family. Republicans fight it all the time.

  • GeneralMac
    January 11, 2018 at 1:24 p.m.

    RBear.......when would you say the minimum wage ever was considered a living wage?

    I doubt it ever was meant to be.

  • Dontsufferfools
    January 11, 2018 at 1:35 p.m.

    Wal-Mart apparently is tired of those stories showing a huge portion of their full-time workers are eligible for food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers. Look at it this way. You can buy a can of beans for a nickel less at Wal-Mart, and in return, that nickel helps pay the payroll taxes that subsidize the Wal-Mart workers. Seems like synergy to me.