The Real Reason Walmart Raised Its Minimum Wage

Cupcakes and TVs: The many-SKU model.

Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

“Walmart workers” used to be a handy synonym for “low-paid.” But over the past few years, the company has steadily raised the wage it offers its lowest-paid employees, and it has now announced that base pay will go up again, to $11 an hour.

If you are one of the majority of people who do not work at Walmart, why should you care about this? Other than the possibility that this will slightly raise the outrageously low prices you pay for goods there?

Actually, there are a lot of reasons to care. The first is that this tells us interesting things about what’s going on in the labor market. While CEO Doug McMillon credited the new Republican tax bill with freeing up cash the company could use to pay its workers more, I (like other observers) tend to take these pronouncements with a huge grain of salt.