Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US), the world’s largest retailer, pledged to hire all honorably discharged U.S. veterans and buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products in the coming decade.
The initiative to offer jobs to veterans within a year of leaving active duty may result in about 100,000 hires in the next five years, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said today in a statement. About two-thirds of Wal-Mart’s products are made, sourced or grown in the U.S., the company said.
Wal-Mart said the hiring and sourcing pledges are meant to create jobs in the U.S., where the unemployment rate has been higher than 7 percent for more than four years. The retailer has about about 1.4 million employees in the country, according to a March regulatory filing.
“It’s a good pool of labor that fits well into how Walmart runs its business, with potential associates that are accustomed to a chain of command, standard operating procedures, disciplined scheduling,” Colin McGranahan, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, said today in an e-mail. “It also generates positive PR for Walmart at a time when the company could certainly use some.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice are probing allegations that Wal-Mart bribed officials to speed its expansion in Mexico. The company also has been criticized following reports that its suppliers were making garments at a Bangladesh factory where more than 100 people died in a November blaze. Earlier that month, the company came under fire for opening stores on Thanksgiving night, requiring employees to work on the holiday.
First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Senator John McCain praised Wal-Mart’s hiring plan in statements released by the company and asked other businesses to follow its lead in helping veterans.
Aside from the positive publicity, the initiative could generate as much as $960 million in tax breaks for the retailer.
Under a U.S. tax provision that was extended through 2013, employers can get tax credits of as much as $9,600 for hiring veterans, depending on their disability status, hours of work and other criteria. The one-year extension was part of the tax law that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 2 and is estimated to cost the government $125 million in foregone revenue in the next decade.
The full $960 million in tax credits would only be reached if Wal-Mart hired all 100,000 employees from the category with the largest available credit and Congress extends the break for four more years. The actual number probably will be smaller because the $9,600 credit is available only for hiring disabled veterans with periods of unemployment exceeding six months.
Wal-Mart rose 0.1 percent to $68.39 at 11:10 a.m. in New York. The shares increased 14 percent last year, compared with a 13 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
Bill Simon, head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores, said today in remarks prepared for the National Retail Federation’s annual convention that Wal-Mart also would “bring more transparency to our scheduling system so part-time workers can choose more hours for themselves.” Employees and union-backed activists have complained in the past that Wal-Mart’s system leaves employees with erratic schedules and fewer hours than they want.
“We want all of our associates to find the career opportunities they want with Walmart,” Simon said in his prepared remarks. “We will make sure part-time associates have full visibility into full-time job openings in their stores and nearby stores, and that they always have first shot at those jobs.”
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