Walmart will, for the first time ever, pay bonuses to its U.S. hourly store workers, including those at its pharmacy and Vision Center stores, the retailer said on Wednesday, in a move that could boost wages for 700,000 front-line staff.

Both part-time and full-time associates will be eligible for the annual bonus program, the idea for which came from feedback from store workers, Walmart U.S. CEO John Furner said on a call with reporters.

"It's important that we are competitive on base wages," Furner said, ahead of the company's annual shareholder meeting later in the day.

A worker has to be with the company for a year to be eligible for the bonus, which is calculated based on stores achieving certain performance targets, he added.

Walmart employs about 1.7 million U.S. workers, a majority of whom staff its 5,000 stores.

Its minimum hourly wage starts from $14, less than the $15 starting wage at and Target.

Walmart has already raised the annual average salary and bonus for its U.S. store managers from Feb. 1.

The U.S. labour market has remained tight, with the Labor Department's latest report showing job growth slowed more than expected in April, while the increase in annual wages fell below 4% for the first time in nearly three years.

"We are seeing a decrease in (store worker) turnover," Furner said.

Walmart also launched an 'Associate to Technician' certification program to help workers transition to higher-paying technician roles in areas such as refrigeration and cooling maintenance, facilities maintenance and automation technician roles, where it has seen some shortages.

The program is aimed to help bridge the gap between the current technician headcount of about 450 to a forecasted demand of about 2,000 two years from now, Walmart's chief talent officer, Lo Stomski, said.

"These jobs make between $19 and $45 an hour and offer opportunities to build a meaningful career."

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru and Siddharth Cavale in New York; Editing by Savio D'Souza)