Kroger Co. said Thursday that it has hired 100,000 people over the past eight weeks, adding to the 460,000 workers the grocer had before the COVID-19 outbreak. Kroger has spent $700 million in associate pay and safeguards against the spread of coronavirus since March, according to the announcement. Hiring began quickly, with the company bringing on 30,000 by April 1. Part of that investment has been in a “hero bonus,” a $2-per-hour pay bump for associates. Kroger says that pay increase will end mid-May. “In the coming months, we know that our associates’ needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers,” the company said in a statement. “We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages. Our average hourly wage is $15 and with benefits factored in, like health care, the hourly wage is over $20.” The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union notes the jump in sales that Kroger has experienced during the pandemic. “Hundreds of thousands of Kroger’s workers across the country, who risk their lives every day, are being told by the company that their hard work and sacrifice is not valued,” Kim Cordova, president of the union’s Local 7, said in a statement calling for a continuance of the pay boost. “As communities begin to reopen and stores have become more crowded, our members are being put at an even higher risk.” Kroger stock fell 3.5% on Thursday but has climbed 29.7% for the last year. The S&P 500 index is down 0.5% over the past 12 months.Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.