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Wal-Mart cutting back on hours for workers
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NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart says it is asking some stores to schedule workers for fewer hours, although it says the directive is only being given to stores that are assigning more hours than they were expected to.

The world’s largest retailer said the instructions apply only to a small number of its 4,500 U.S. locations that are scheduling workers for more hours than expected.

Wal-Mart said Monday it spoke to store managers about controlling costs earlier this month at a holiday-season planning meeting. Managers who have been scheduling workers for too many hours were reminded to schedule closer to their allotted hours.

“Managing hours is a routine part of running a sustainable operation, and in select number of stores, it requires keeping those hours to what was originally budgeted,” Wal-Mart said.

Wal-Mart’s second-quarter profit fell 15 percent, partly because of pay raises, efforts to overhaul its stores, and investments in its online operations. The changes did help its sales, however.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company raised its minimum wage to $9 an hour in April and plans to raise it to $10 an hour by February.

As of Jan. 31, Wal-Mart had about 1.4 million employees in the U.S. It did not say how many of them might be working fewer hours.

The move to trim some employees’ hours shows the wage increase was only a public relations move, said Jess Levin, a spokeswoman with the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. Workers are having their hours cut so Wal-Mart can “pad its bottom line,” she said.

Wal-Mart’s low-income shoppers are still struggling as the U.S. economy goes through a sluggish recovery, though lower gas prices are helping somewhat. The company also faces increasing competition from online king and from dollar stores, which are pulling in shoppers seeking low prices and convenience.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. slipped 21 cents to $64.73 on Monday. The stock is trading around three-year lows and has fallen 25 percent in 2015.