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Walmart changes starting pay structure for entry-level store workers

(Reuters) -Walmart is changing the hourly starting wage structure for entry-level store workers, as companies seek to reduce costs in a slowing job market.

The change means that store workers including cashiers, personal shoppers, stockers, self-checkout helpers and associates manning departments such as sporting goods or electronics will all receive the same hourly starting wages that are paid at the store, instead of different levels previously, Walmart spokesperson Anne Hatfield said.

Deli, auto center and bakery workers will continue to receive higher starting wages as they are higher-skilled roles, she added.

The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the wage structure changes that went into effect in mid-July, said the changes mean paying some new store workers less than it would have three months ago, citing documents seen by the Journal and store workers.

Walmart pays its employees different starting wages based on where the store is based. For example, workers in the Northeast start at higher rates compared to the Midwest.

The new wage structure will not change Walmart's minimum hourly wage of $14 or result in any pay cuts for existing employees, the spokesperson said.

"We can have consistency in staffing across the store, have better customer service and allow for new opportunities for associates to learn things," Hatfield said.

Shares of the company rose about 1% in afternoon trade.

Walmart's move comes at a time when U.S. job growth data in August showed that the labor market was slowing in response to the U.S. central bank's hefty rate hikes to cool demand in the economy, which has already started to see demand waver for discretionary items.

Reuters reported in August that Walmart was asking some of its 16,000 pharmacists across the United States to voluntarily take pay cuts by reducing their working hours in a bid to lower costs.

Still, the retailer has fared better than rivals because of its focus on groceries, which are becoming a larger portion of consumers' budgets at a time when their wallets are squeezed by inflation. The company raised its full-year forecasts for the second-time this year in August.

The retailer has been raising wages over the past few years to attract employees and fight labor shortages spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Ananya Mariam Rajesh in Bengaluru and Siddharth Cavale in New YorkEditing by Maju Samuel and Frances Kerry)