MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Walmart Canada is ramping up hiring amid rapid expansion in this country by the U.S.-based retail giant.

Walmart says it will open 47 hiring centres across the country as it adds a total of some 4,000 new employees this year and next, about 500 more than previously announced.

By the end of 2013, the company expects to spend some $750 million to open, relocate or remodel 73 stores.

Included are most of the 39 former Zellers stores for which Walmart Canada purchased leasehold rights in June 2011.

They will reopen as Walmart stores in this fiscal year.

In addition to the permanent jobs, the various projects are expected to generate some 10,500 construction jobs.

"We are extremely excited to be adding more than 4,000 new associates to our team,'' said Bob Hakeem, senior vice-president, People, Walmart Canada, using the company's preferred term for employee.

Walmart Canada pharmacies are also in the midst of a significant hiring phase.

"We have already hired many pharmacy associates that previously worked for Zellers and are looking to fill additional positions,'' said Eric Muir, senior vice-president, Health and Wellness, Walmart Canada.

Walmart Canada has already hired 900 employees this year, from sales associates to managers in its stores across the country, to field operations and home office positions.

Already one of Canada's largest employers, it plans to hire an additional 3,100 workers by the end of 2013, raising its overall Canadian payroll to 94,000.

Walmart said more than half of the 73 projects will become supercentres, which offer an array of groceries as well as general merchandise. The retailer opened its first Canadian supercentres in Ontario in 2006 and has since ramped up expansion plans for the large-store concept.

The expansion comes as competition in the Canadian retail market heats up with the entry of fellow discount retailer Target next year.

Target plans to open 125 to 135 stores. It has purchased the leasehold interests of 189 sites currently operated by Zellers Inc. and it says about $10 million to $11 million will be invested to remodel each facility.

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