2008年11月11日 星期二

Retail Losses (USA)

Retail Losses Sap a Jobs Safety Net

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Circuit City Stores Inc.'s bankruptcy filing Monday underscores how this economic downturn may differ from others in recent memory: The U.S. retail sector is rapidly losing its place as the employer of last resort for the newly unemployed.

Circuit City, the country's second-largest electronics chain, had already announced it would cut 6,800 people as it conducts out-of-business sales at one-fifth of its outlets. On Monday, as it announced it was seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, it said the number of job losses was likely to rise to 8,000 people.

Circuit City is the latest of at least 14 major retail chains, including Linens 'n Things and Mervyns LLC, to file for bankruptcy protection in the last 12 months. Many, such as Linens, are discovering that they can't find financing and are liquidating, slashing tens of thousands of jobs. Fashion retailer Steve & Barry's entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy this summer with a plan to trim about 100 of its 276 stores; now, according to people familiar with the matter, the company is likely to liquidate the entire chain.

The retail sector employs roughly one of every 10 Americans. But since November 2007, about one in every four lost jobs -- about 320,000 in all -- have been retail jobs.

That has helped push the country's overall unemployment rate to 6.5% through October, a figure which many economists expect to grow to 8% or higher. The unemployment figures do not include about 209,000 retail workers whose full-time hours have been reduced to part-time, according to the Department of Labor.

Traditionally, retail work had been more resilient than other industries in times of recession, with its job cuts often lagging those in other segments. In the 2001 downturn, for example, stores didn't lay off as many workers, or shutter as many stores, because consumers continued to spend.

But in this slowdown, the sector's job losses have outstripped those of other troubled industries such as automotive manufacturing, financial services and hospitality, according to the latest government jobs data. Retail experts believe many of the biggest retail job cuts are yet to come.

In a teleconference last week with financial institutions, the large liquidation firm Hilco Appraisal Services projected 6,100 U.S. stores -- ranging from mom-and-pops to outlets of big chains -- will close in 2008, up 25% from 2007. It estimated that figure could reach 14,000 stores next year, which would be an all-time high. Each store typically employs 20 to 100 full- and part-time workers, say retail experts. That doesn't count the executives who manage the stores, buy merchandise and develop strategy at a corporate headquarters.

Ken Simon, managing director of financial advisory firm Loughlin Meghji + Co., says this downturn could be worse for retailers because of banks' reluctance to lend. 'The credit freeze means a bankrupt retailer will have trouble finding financing to keep even a portion of their stores continuing,' Mr. Simon said.

The layoffs expose the thin economic safety net available for many Americans, who have long depended on a part-time or second retail job to make ends meet. Front-line retail jobs are among the primary sources of employment for those without a college education. For better-educated, full-time employees, retail jobs also filled a void left by the decline of U.S. manufacturers. Retail jobs could become more competitive still as unemployed workers with college degrees enter the market.

'In retail you have large numbers of people who are at or slightly above poverty, so losing employment in that sector can increase poverty levels,' says Ken Jacobs, an education researcher at University of California at Berkeley. 'As manufacturing declined, these were the jobs where people could go.'


零售業萎縮 美國人痛失就業安全網

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國電子產品零售連鎖商Circuit City Stores Inc.週一申請破產保護的消息表明了眼下這場經濟危機與以往幾次危機的不同之處:美國零售行業正迅速失去作為新增失業人員最後避難所的地位。

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Circuit City是過去12個月中申請破產保護的第14
全美第二大電子產品零售連鎖商Circuit City已宣佈裁員6,800人﹐並在其五分之一的分店進行破產大甩賣。在週一宣佈尋求破產保護後﹐該公司表示﹐裁員人數可能會上升至8,000人。

Circuit City是過去12個月中至少第14家申請破產保護的大型零售商﹐此前Linens 'n Things和Mervyns LLC等零售商都沒能倖免。Linens等很多零售商發現﹐他們無法獲得融資﹐被迫進行清算﹐並裁減數萬個職位。服裝零售商Steve & Barry's今年夏天進入了破產保護程序﹐計劃關閉276家店舖中的100家﹔據知情人士透露﹐現在﹐該公司很可能要對所有連鎖店進行清算。





在 上週與金融機構舉行的電話會議中﹐大型清算公司Hilco Appraisal Services預計﹐將有6,100家美國店舖--從夫妻店到大型連鎖店--將在2008年關閉﹐較2007年增加25%。該機構估計﹐明年這個數字可 能會升至14,000家﹐達到前所未有的水平。零售專家表示﹐每家店舖通常會僱傭20-100名全職或兼職員工。這還不包括管理店舖、採買商品以及在公司 總部研究發展策略的高級管理人員。

財務咨詢公司Loughlin Meghji + Co.的董事總經理西蒙(Ken Simon)表示﹐這次經濟危機對零售商的打擊更為嚴重﹐因為銀行不願發放貸款。西盟說﹐信貸凍結意味著破產的零售商很難找到資金來維持仍在經營店舖的收支平衡。

零 售業裁員數量增加揭露出﹐可供美國人依賴的經濟安全網變得非常薄弱。很多美國人長期以來都依靠在零售業的兼職貼補家用。對於那些沒有接受過大學教育的美國 人來說﹐零售店內的一線工作職位是其主要的職位來源之一。對於那些受過較好教育、擁有全職工作的雇員來說﹐零售業職位填補了美國製造業萎縮帶來的空白。隨 著受過大學教育的失業人員湧入就業市場﹐爭奪零售職位的競爭將會變得更加激烈。

加州大學伯克利分校(University of California at Berkeley)的教育研究員雅各布斯(Ken Jacobs)說﹐在零售業﹐大量的從業人員都處於貧困線邊緣或略高於這一水平﹐因此這個行業失業率增加會推高國家的整體貧困水平。隨著製造業下滑﹐零售 業職位可能會成為人們求職的方向。