Bentonville — As part of the largest single-day, private-sector pay increase ever, more than 1.2 million Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club associates in the U.S., including 3,657 in Little Rock and more than 29,000 in the state of Arkansas received pay raises on their March 10 paychecks.

The increases are part of the company’s two-year, $2.7 billion investment in higher pay, better training, clearer career paths and additional educational opportunities for its workers.

Wal-Mart associates are eligible for quarterly cash bonuses based on the performance of their store.

For the full fiscal year, Wal-Mart associates across the country earned more than $550 million in bonuses, including $16,431,239 in Arkansas. In addition to the higher wages, the March 10 paychecks for eligible Arkansas associates will include a share of the more than $5,052.564 bonus earned in the fourth quarter of the year alone.

"We’ve always been committed to saving our customer’s money so that they can live better," said associate Mark Meyer of Little Rock. "I think that this is great a way for Wal-Mart to help our associates live better."

Wal-Mart’s associate investment is about more than wages and benefits. It is designed to provide associates the skills, knowledge and tools they need to grow with the company and provide great customer service. The company is also creating new training programs, which will create clear career paths from entry-level positions to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.

Wages and advancement

Last year, Wal-Mart U.S. and Sam’s Club promoted more than 200,000 associates, including 7,405 in Arkansas, to jobs with higher pay and more responsibility.

In addition, more than 150,000 associates, including 4,820 in Arkansas were converted from part-time to full-time.

This month’s pay changes include:

• All associates hired before Jan. 1, 2016 will earn at least $10/hour.

• New entry-level associates hired after Jan. 1 will continue to start at $9/hour and will move to at least $10/hour after successfully completing the company’s new retail skills and training program known as Pathways.

• Associates already earning more than $10/hour will see their annual pay increase starting in March rather than waiting until their anniversary date.

• Wal-Mart is raising the starting rate of its non-entry level hourly pay bands. Anyone earning below the new minimum will automatically move up to the new minimum.

• Associates at or above their pay band maximum will receive a one-time lump sum payment equal to 2 percent of their annual pay.

Wal-Mart in Arkansas

Wal-Mart’s local investment goes beyond the company’s recent pay raises.

In Arkansas, the company:

• Operates 132 retail units.

• Spent $4.5 billion with local suppliers, supporting 41,188 supplier jobs in 2015.

• Paid more than $296.5 million in taxes and collected more than $410.6 million in sales taxes in 2015.

This associate investment was taken into account in the financial outlook discussed last October at the company’s annual analyst meeting.