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If any of the 600 people Target let go at its headquarters last month were contemplating a move to the dark side, any such ambitions were likely dashed last week when Wal-Mart said it planned to cut 700 to 800 jobs at its home office.

Wal-Mart, and Target for that matter, was a hold out in the layoff phenomenon that swept through the retail industry last year and intensified more recently. Now, with the biggest and most profitable company in the industry succumbing to pressure, or at least using the downturn to trim some fat from its home office work force of 14,000, retail employees who have been laid off face the difficult prospect of looking for work in an industry that shed more than a half a million jobs in 2008. And January was a rough start to the New Year as well, with Moody’s Analytics reporting that U.S. retailers cut 45,100 jobs. The total number of retail jobs lost last year represented about 16% of the 3.6 million jobs the U.S. economy lost since January 2008.

In Wal-Mart’s case, new president and CEO Mike Duke said the cuts were necessary to align the company’s support structure with current business conditions, so it could continue to deliver on the brand promise of saving people money so they can live better. The cuts will affect merchandising, real estate, marketing and support division functions, but will not affect store-level operations.

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