With a tightening labor market, more retailers are boosting wages and other benefits for workers.
Costco Wholesale Corp. is the latest to announce a hike, saying Thursday it now will pay all workers in the U.S. and Canada at least $15 per hour. It was the second raise of the year for the Washington-based retailer, which has about 245,000 employees. In June, Costco hiked its minimum hourly wage by a dollar to $14 an hour.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this week that while fewer jobs were created in February, average hourly earnings ticked up 3.4 percent year over year, the strongest rate in a decade. Unemployment now sits at its lowest rate in half a century, and more companies are having to pony up pay and other perks to hang onto workers.
Retailers, whose competition for labor hasn't been quite as heated as in some higher-skilled industries, are slowly responding to the pressure.
Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour in October, at a time when the tech giant and many other retailers were ramping up seasonal hiring ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.
Minneapolis-based Target Corp. inched its base pay to $12 an hour before the holidays and said it will hit $15 an hour for all of its workers by the end of 2020.
Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell said last week he had no immediate plans to accelerate the timeline for the planned hike, saying the company will "stay right on course" to begin rolling out a companywide $15-an-hour guarantee about nine months from now.
Best Buy Co. Inc. hasn't talked publicly about its wage structure, saying it addresses pay on a market-by-market basis. The Richfield-based company this year diverted a portion of its savings from the federal tax law to boost benefits. It now provides paid time off plus paid family and medical leave to all full- and part-time employees, and it introduced an emergency child-care benefit and expanded mental health coverage.
"We've been investing every year in making sure the wages were competitive, and we'll continue to do this," Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly said during a call with the media after quarterly earnings in February.
Walmart, the nation's largest employer, last year raised its starting wage to guarantee that all of its 1.5 million workers earn at least $11 an hour.
Both Joly and Cornell said providing more training and additional job duties has increased labor costs but also has reduced turnover and, along with other factors, led to higher workplace satisfaction.
Target has dedicated workers in apparel, beauty and technology, a shift from years ago when employees were generalists.
"Our store labor model and how we run the stores is very different than it was a few years ago," Cornell said.