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U.S. retailers cut 39,500 jobs in February


New York City U.S. retailers slashed 39,500 jobs in February as they continue to close stores and eliminate sales staff amid the spending slump.

The cuts marked the 13th straight month of job losses in the retail sector, but were well below the industry's average monthly pace of 47,000 over the past 12 months, said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

February's losses were slightly lower than the revised 40,000 cuts in January, and well below the 88,000 cuts in December and 91,000 cuts in November, when retail job slashing hit a crescendo.

The job cut figures were the latest tentative indicator that the industry may be finding a bottom, after retailers released figures Thursday showing that sales kept falling in February, but not nearly as much as in January.

Merchants, grappling with consolidation in the industry, were quicker to cut jobs than many other industries and bore the brunt of early losses. But Friday's figures show that the industry's share of the job cuts is also declining.

Retail job losses now account for almost 14% of the 4.4 million jobs slashed in the United States since January 2008, down from 25% in the first six months of last year, Niemira said. The retail industry accounts for about 11% of total payroll employment.

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