Wal-Mart Plans for Hiring Boom in Next Five Years

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - While the unpredictable economy has put a standstill on hiring at many companies, retail giant Wal-Mart has said it intends to add 800,000 global new hires over the next five years, USA Today reports.

That, in addition to other hires that come on board because of natural turnover, would give Wal-Mart -- already the largest private labor force in the USA ?- more than 2 million employees.

Wal-Mart's ability to meet its ambitious hiring goal is critical to its continued dominance in the retail market, analysts say. It needs people in order to maintain its aggressive push into other profitable areas, such as the retail grocery business.

But there are challenges. The mass merchandiser will have to expand quickly while still being selective about who it hires. It will have to overcome attacks in lawsuits and from unions on its reputation as an employer. And it will face mounting wage pressures that run counter to the retailer's focus on keeping operational costs low.

"The biggest challenge is the numbers," Coleman Peterson, executive v.p. of Wal-Mart Stores' "People" division, told USA Today. "The numbers are just so large. But the issue is no different than the one (founder) Sam Walton faced. We have to focus on one associate at a time."

Wal-Mart's aggressive hiring plan will seek to continue bringing in minorities and female applicants and turn part-time, college-age workers into long-term employees. While officials won't disclose pay information, unions that have pressed the company for wage increases put front-line workers' salaries at $7 to $8 an hour. Analysts say wages may in some cases be higher because they vary by location and job position.
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