US retailers hope higher pay will buy more efficient workers

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2018, file photo, employees demonstrate how air pillow machines work at a packaging station in the backroom of a Target store in Edison, N.J. For many retailers that have lifted pay to attract and keep workers, another challenge has arisen: Making those workers productive enough to justify the larger payouts. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s retailers, struggling to fill jobs, have been raising pay to try to keep and attract enough employees. Now, some stores want something in return: A more efficient worker.

To that end, retailers, fast food restaurants and other lower-wage employers are boosting investment in technology and redesigning stores. Walmart is automating its truck unloading to require fewer workers on loading docks. Kohl’s is using more hand-held devices to speed check-outs and restock shelves. McDonald’s is increasingly replacing cashiers with self-service kiosks to free workers for table service.

Retail workers, though comparatively low-paid, have enjoyed some of the best wage gains in the past year. Their hourly pay rose 4.3 percent in November from a year earlier — much faster than such higher-wage industries as manufacturing, where pay rose 1.8 percent.

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