Wal-Mart staffs up

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While almost every other large retailer is cutting jobs, Wal-Mart (WMT) says it will add 22,000 new workers this year. That may be down some from 2009, but it says a great deal about the world's largest retailer's strength and success during the recession.

Wal-Mart has been adroit at keeping its prices low during the downturn. While the chain has often done well bringing in low-income shoppers, the middle classes now shop at the stores as their credit has been pinched and their salaries frozen.

Wal-Mart is often criticized by activists for refusing to allow its workers to unionize and for paying many of its employees extremely low salaries. But Wal-Mart employs 2.1 million people and almost all of them have kept their jobs during a remarkably long and deep recession. Wal-Mart can claim, at the very least, that it has done its fair share for the national economy.

According to Reuters, "Last October, Wal-Mart announced plans to open 157 to 177 new or expanded stores and clubs during the current 2010 fiscal year in the United States." That could mean even more new jobs.

Wal-Mart's employment practices may not put it at the top of the list of best employers, but at least it is doing what many of the companies on the "best companies to work for" lists are not. It is keeping people in their jobs and adding positions for others.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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