Retail job losses highest on record as coronavirus wreaks havoc on economy

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The already struggling retail industry has experienced catastrophic layoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic that are hitting historic levels.

During the first few months of 2020, retailers have slashed more than 114,000 jobs, which far outpaces annual job cuts in the industry, as well as beating the previous high of 101,000 in 2003, according to CBS News.

Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger Gray & Christmas, referred to the retail cut as “astronomical.”

Companies that were already on weak footing succumbed as a result of stay-at-home orders imposed by governors across the country, including companies such as Pier 1 Imports.

Even if lockdown orders are lifted soon, shoppers may not feel comfortable to go back to stores. Consumers are spending more at grocery stores during the pandemic but are turning toward online retailers such as Amazon for non-essential goods. A CompareCards survey found that one-third of consumers say they are more likely to shop online instead of in-store during the pandemic.

Overall retail sales dipped 9% in March, and clothing retail stores witnessed a 51% decline, which is the steepest drop among all types of retailers.

“Retailers that survive COVID-19 need to dramatically rethink long-established practices and processes and invest in new systems that squeeze more ROI [return on investment] out of the business,” Kelly Lynch, retail solutions manager at data science company ActiveViam, said about the current retail climate.

A record 20.5 million people in the United States lost their jobs in April, causing the unemployment rate to hit 14.7%. Over the past nine weeks, the number of jobless claims nationwide has hit 38 million.

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