Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced today that it will be raising the wage floor on its U.S. employees to $10 an hour by Feb. 1, 2016, and as a steppingstone to $9 an hour by mid-year.

“These changes will give our U.S. associates the opportunity to earn higher pay and advance in their careers,” said Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart president and chief executive.  “We’re pursuing a comprehensive approach that is sustainable over the long term.”

In 2014 the company said its average hourly wage was $11.83 an hour, but McMillon added that this newest wage boost will cost the company $1 billion in its current fiscal year, as half a million employees will be affected.

The Wal-Mart announcement follows an earlier 2015 pledge by health insurer Aetna to set a $16-an-hour floor on its employees’ wages.

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