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Wal-Mart Pay Hike Starts a Wage War

Let the wage war begin.

Less than a week after Wal-Mart announced that it would raise wages for 500,000 employees to $9 an hour in April, off-price retailer TJX said in its fourth-quarter earnings report that it, too, will boost pay.

The parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods said Wednesday its full- and part-time hourly U.S. employees will earn at least $9 an hour starting in June. In 2016, all hourly U.S. workers who have been with the company for six months or more will earn at least $10 an hour.

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"At TJX, we attribute our success over the last 38 years primarily to the people we have hired who have remained focused on our mission of delivering consumers amazing values," CEO Carol Meyrowitz said in the company's earnings release.

"This pay initiative is an important part of our strategies to continue attracting and retaining the best talent in order to deliver a great shopping experience for our customers, remain competitive on wages in our U.S. markets, and stay focused on our value mission."

TJX said the combination of its investments in its employees, incremental investments to support growth, and pension costs will hurt its 2016 earnings per share growth by 4 percent.

Because of Wal-Mart's role as the world's largest retailer, experts last week forecast that other companies would follow its footsteps, in an effort to attract—and better retain—employees.

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Wal-Mart ignites minimum wage debate 1:50

"What I've been telling people is Wal-Mart just raised the federal minimum wage," Maryam Morse, senior principal and retail practice leader at Hay Group, said ahead of TJX's announcement.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, though 29 states and the District of Columbia pay a higher minimum wage. In January, the minimum wage increased in nine states, including Arizona, Florida and New Jersey. TJX spokeswoman Doreen Thompson declined to share the percentage of TJX stores that are located in states that boosted their minimum wages.

Other retailers have taken similar steps to boost employee loyalty. They include Gap, which last year increased the minimum hourly rate for its U.S. employees to $9, and set it rise again to $10 in June.

On its earnings conference call Wednesday, Target declined to disclose its average wages but said the company is "very focused on ensuring we have competitive wages" and is always assessing the marketplace.