NEW YORK: Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, on Thursday announced that it was boosting its starting salary for U.S. workers and handing out one-time bonuses to others.

Walmart cited tax legislation that will save it money in announcing the higher hourly wages, one-time bonuses and expanded parental benefits that will affect more than a million hourly workers in the United States.

Later Thursday, Walmart announced that it is closing 63 of its Sam’s Clubs locations and converting about 10 of them into e-commerce distribution centers. The company did not immediately say how many jobs would be eliminated

Rising wages reflect a generally tight labor market. The conversion of stores to e-commerce sites also illustrates how companies are trying to leverage their store locations to better compete against Amazon as shopping moves online.

Online retailers typically pay warehouse employees who pack and ship orders more than store jobs pay. Job postings at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio, for example, offer a starting pay of $14.50 an hour.

“This is about the evolution of retail,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. “The rise of e-commerce is leading to higher wages.”

Large employers also have been under pressure to boost benefits for workers because unemployment rates are at historic lows, allowing job seekers to be pickier.

But low unemployment has meant that retailers have had trouble attracting and keeping talented workers, experts said. Walmart employees previously started at $9 an hour, with a bump up to $10 after completing a training program. Target had raised its minimum hourly wage to $11 in October, and said it would raise wages to $15 by the end of 2020.

“They raised the minimum wage because they have to,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said. “The labor market is tight and getting tighter.”

While many department store chains such as Macy’s and Sears are struggling, retailers as a whole are still trying to hire. The retail industry is seeking to fill 711,000 open jobs, the highest on records dating back to 2001, according to government data. The longer those jobs go unfilled, the greater pressure on employers to offer higher wages.

Walmart, which reported annual revenue of nearly $486 billion in the previous fiscal year, said the wage increases will cost it an additional $300 million in the next fiscal year. The bonuses will cost it about $400 million in this fiscal year, which ends on Jan. 31.

“The wage increases will make a big difference to Walmart’s lowest-paid associates, but do not yet match Target’s commitment to raise pay to $15 an hour,” said the Organization United for Respect at Walmart.

It joins dozens of other companies including American Airlines, AT&T and Bank of America that have announced $1,000 worker payouts following the passage of the Republican tax plan that slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The companies say the bonuses they’ve announced are a way to share some of their bounty with their workers, though in some cases it’s a very small percentage of their gains, and are less valuable to employees than permanent pay raises.