Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is moving 35,000 part-time workers to full-time status and is elevating another 35,000 to part-time from temporary after struggling to keep shelves stocked with too few employees in the past year.

Also, about 55,000 seasonal workers will be hired for the holiday season, up from 50,000 last year, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said today in a statement. The 70,000 workers whose employment statuses are being elevated will keep their new positions after the holiday season ends, said Kory Lundberg, a Wal-Mart spokesman.

The U.S. workforce at Wal-Mart’s namesake and Sam’s Club warehouse chains fell by about 120,000 employees in the past five years, to about 1.3 million, according to regulatory filings. In that time, the company has added more than 500 U.S. stores through July 31. That workforce decline has coincided with customer frustration that there aren’t enough employees to keep shelves stocked, cash registers manned and shoppers’ questions answered, Bloomberg reported earlier this year.

Cleveland Research Co. said in a Sept. 18 report that “one of the key issues” hindering Wal-Mart’s store operations “is the lack of labor in the stores to get the inventory out of the back rooms and onto the sales floor.”

The new full-timers will be eligible for health benefits and will be “getting the consistent full-time hours they’re looking for,” Lundberg said. The new part-timers will have the job security they lacked as temps with contracts that typically last 90 or 180 days, he said.

At Wal-Mart, employees who consistently work 34 or more hours a week are considered full time, and those who regularly work fewer than 34 hours are part-time, Lundberg said.

(Source: Bloomberg)