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Wal-Mart to cut 7,000 back-office store jobs

A Walmart department manager helps stock shelves with school supplies in San Diego.
Mike Blake | Reuters
A Walmart department manager helps stock shelves with school supplies in San Diego.

Wal-Mart is eliminating 7,000 positions in its back offices across the U.S., spokeswoman Deisha Barnett confirmed to CNBC on Thursday.

The cuts, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, affect employees working in accounting and invoicing positions. The reductions will be rolled out over the next few months, and employees will be given the option to move into more customer-facing roles, Barnett said.

Wal-Mart has been looking for ways to put more employees on the sales floor, as it seeks to improve its customer service and keep its fresh foods in-stock. Operating faster and cleaner stores is a crucial part of the company's U.S. turnaround strategy.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart eliminated accounting and invoicing roles at approximately 500 locations in the Western United States. Those two to three employees per store were likewise offered the opportunity to work in another part of the company that dealt more directly with customers.

On Thursday, Barnett said she was pleased with how those transitions were going so far. Yet because they won't be complete for the next several months, she was unable to share information regarding what percentage of employees elected to switch into new roles, she said. Some of the new positions taken up have been in Wal-Mart's growing online grocery business, Barnett noted.

While some of the workers' new roles will pay less, others will pay the same or more, Barnett said. Making Change at Walmart, a group that lobbies for the rights of Wal-Mart workers, was skeptical of that promise.

"This change, no matter what Walmart promises, will most likely put 7,000 workers in the position of having to choose between a pay cut or no job at all," said Jess Levin, communications director for the group, in a statement.

The world's largest retailer has likewise been investing in better training for its employees, putting $2.7 billion into those programs and a series of wage hikes. As part of those pay increases, workers who complete a minimum six-month training program are boosted to a minimum $10 an hour.

Wal-Mart employs roughly 1.5 million people in the U.S., according to the company's website.

CNBC's Christine Wang contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled a Wal-Mart spokesman's name.