Crash Course In Free Market Economics And Income Inequality

On February 19 Doug McMillon, President & CEO, Walmart, announced higher pay in a Letter to Associates.

Bloomberg columnist Barry Ritholtz, a higher minimum wage advocate, pounced on the news, calling the wage hike Wal-Mart’s Crash Course in Labor Economics 

 Last week, we learned that Wal-Mart was giving the lowest paid of its hourly employees a raise. In a blog post, Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said that as of April, the company will pay a minimum of $9 an hour. That is $1.75 more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has been unchanged for almost six years. Next February, Wal-Mart’s lowest hourly rate will rise to $10. All told, about a half-million Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. will be affected.

In the years since the last federal minimum-wage increase, many of Wal-Mart’s employees had fallen below the poverty level and the strengthening economy has made it harder to attract and retain employees.

Although many factors contributed to the move, the simple reason for the increase is because Wal-Mart has stopped growing. Same-store sales have been little changed or declining for some time now. When we look at the underlying causes, the company’s workforce, and how it is managed, are the prime suspects.

Cutting on salary and benefits, however, didn’t necessarily lower costs. About 44 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly staff turns over each year. That’s a lot of people, because the company employs 2.2 million workers worldwide. Hiring replacements is a costly and time consuming process.

Consider competitors such as Costco: It has average hourly wages of $20 and a turnover rate of “17% overall and just 6% after one year’s employment,” according to the Harvard Business Review.

Staff Turnover

Barry goes on and on with some things I agree with and many other things I don’t. However, I believe we can all reasonably assume that that staff turnover was a major factor in Wal-Mart’s decision.

If so, what does that say? 

It says that the free market wage for Wal-Mart employees is $10.00 an hour, not $9.53, not $12.28, not $15.00, not any pulled out of the hat government mandate.

Wal-Mart decided on its own accord it could not attract the quality of people it needs at $7.25. That says nothing about Costco or McDonald’s.

Simply put, the free market worked, not pressure from protesters, not whining from Obama.

Wal-Mart is Not Costco 

On August 29, 2013, I wrote Wal-Mart is not Costco; So Why Should it Pay Like Costco?

Bloomberg writer Megan McArdle also hit the nail on the head with her 2013 analysis of the situation in Why Wal-Mart Will Never Pay Like Costco. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *