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Walmart to raise wages in one-third of stores

Minimum wage hikes across the country are having an impact on the country's largest private employer.

Walmart (WMT), which employs more than 1.3 million people in the U.S., will raise the base salaries at 1,434 stores, or about one-third of its U.S. locations, according to Reuters. The decision comes as minimum wages are set to rise in nine states on Jan. 1, including Florida, Ohio and other large states.

The push to raise the minimum wage has been taken up by states, even as the Obama administration has called for a boost to the federal baseline wage. While the debate continues at the federal level, 29 states and Washington, D.C., will have minimum wages that exceed the federal baseline pay of $7.25 per hour on Jan. 1, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Walmart declined to confirm the report that it is boosting wages, but a spokeswoman wrote in an email that the company is ensuring compliance in states where the minimum wage is changing.

Given that Walmart competes with other retailers on cost, maintaining tight control over labor expenses remains important to the company and investors, who keep a close eye on the retailer's margins.

An internal Walmart memo obtained by Reuters shows that the company will narrow the gap between the premium paid for employees in higher skilled jobs, such as supervisors, and those in lower paid roles. It also intends to roll its three lowest pay grades, which include cashiers, cart pushers and maintenance workers, into one base pay level.

Critics have pointed to Walmart's reliance on low pay as forcing costs onto taxpayers, given that some of its employees rely on government assistance to make ends meet. Low-paid Walmart workers receive about $2.66 billion in government help annually, according to Bloomberg News.

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