NEW YORK - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Friday it expects to hire more than 50,000 people this holiday season and will be offering more hours to its existing employees.

The world's largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., said that this year's seasonal hiring will be up slightly from last year, although it declined to give a precise figure for increase.

The discounter operates more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. and employs about 1.4 million people nationwide. It is the nation's largest private employer.

The news follows Kohl's announcement Tuesday that it will be hiring more than 52,700 people, up more than 10 percent from last year.

Kohl's Corp., based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., operates 1,146 stores in 49 states. It also expects to hire 5,700 people for jobs at its distribution centers and 30 people for seasonal positions in its credit operations business. As of January, Kohl's had about 30,000 full-time and 112,000 part-time associates.

Analysts study the holiday hiring figures from Wal-Mart and other merchants for clues about overall employment trends and sales expectations for the holiday season, the most important period of the year for retailers.

Stores typically begin to hire for the holidays in mid-September and ramp up hiring in mid-October.