Thursday, November 25, 1999

Wal-Mart to hire
millionth U.S. worker

By Heather Landy
Bloomberg News


BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., already the largest U.S. employer, said it expects to hire its one millionth U.S. worker during next year's fourth-quarter holiday season.

That's an increase of about 11 percent from the estimated 900,000 U.S. employees Wal-Mart expects to have at the end of this year. The world's largest retailer currently employs about 815,000 workers in the United States and 1.04 million worldwide, the company said.

Wal-Mart needs more cashiers, merchandise buyers, computer programmers, truck drivers and other personnel to fulfill its expansion plans.

Next year in the United States, the retailer plans to open about 40 discount stores, 160 supercenters, which include full grocery departments, 20 Sam's Club wholesale warehouses and 10 distribution centers.

The payroll of Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart already dwarfs that of General Motors Corp., UPS Inc., Sears, Roebuck & Co., General Electric Co., McDonald's Corp. and others. Only the government employs more in the United States, the company said.

Even so, Wal-Mart's expansion, combined with the lowest unemployment rate in 29 years, makes it increasingly important for retailers to reduce employee turnover, Coleman Peterson, senior vice president of Wal-Mart's "people division," or human resources department, said in a statement.

A recent study by the company showed that almost half of those who quit working at Wal-Mart left within their first 90 days on the job. In response, Wal-Mart changed its new-employee training program to allow workers to spend more time with store managers first and complete computer-based and other technical training later, said spokeswoman Alex Clarke.

The retailer also tries to retain workers by offering the chance to advance. About 65 percent of Wal-Mart's managers joined the company as hourly employees.

Wal-Mart had sales of $137.6 billion last year. As of Oct. 31, the company had 1,803 discount stores, 682 supercenters and 456 Sam's Club warehouses in the United States.

In Hawaii, the company has six outlets. It also has operations in Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, China and Korea.

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