By Sarah Nassauer
Target plans to raise starting wages for hourly workers to $15 next month, permanently extending a temporary increase implemented during the coronavirus pandemic and following through ahead of schedule on a pledge made years ago.
Target in 2017 said it would gradually move starting wages for hourly workers to $15 by the end of this year. Before the pandemic, Target paid hourly workers at least $13 an hour.
Like other retailers deemed essential during the pandemic, Target raised wages and other benefits as it worked to remain open. At retailers, those measures were meant to reward employees for what is sometimes stressful and dangerous work and to keep stores and warehouses staffed.
Before the coronavirus, wages for hourly employees had been growing steadily amid historically low unemployment, and several large retailers and restaurant chains had been locked in a costly battle for scarce workers. Two years ago, Amazon.com Inc. raised its starting wage for hourly workers to $15, while cutting some bonuses. Costco Wholesale Corp. moved starting wages to $15 last year. Walmart Inc., the country's largest retailer by revenue, starts hourly workers at $11, as it has since 2018.
It isn't clear whether large retailers will continue raising wages in a drastically different labor market. Over 25 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits as of early May. Amazon and Walmart together have hired about half a million workers since mid-March to help meet demand for food and household goods and to make up for workers on leave. Walmart said earlier this month that more than 270,000 of its roughly 1.5 million U.S. employees have taken coronavirus-related leave in recent months. It has hired more than 300,000 workers to keep up, many on a temporary basis, Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon told shareholders.
Some retailers have pulled back on temporary, coronavirus-related wage increases, including Amazon and Kroger Co. Labor costs have grown this year for retailers that have remained open. Walmart spent around $675 million in the most recent quarter on worker bonuses and benefits related to the coronavirus, the company said last month.
Target said Wednesday the company will spend $1 billion more this year than last on worker-related expenses, including wages, paid leave and safety equipment such as masks. In addition to the wage increases, Target will give hourly workers a one-time bonus in July of $200, the company said.
Some retailers have continued to extend temporary wage increases, including Dollar Tree Inc., which earlier this month said it would keep paying hourly workers an extra $2 an hour through June 27. Walmart has offered a series of one-time bonuses to hourly workers in recent months.
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