Retail Continues Slide; Many Entrepreneurs Launch Layoffs

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The retail sector continued to slide in January, with Retail Metrics Inc.'s monthly report noting a 1.8 percent decline in same-store sales compared to December. It's the fourth month in a row of sales decreases in the report.

Excluding Walmart and drug stores, the Metrics report's same-store sales number is actually down 7.3 percent. Department store sales dropped 11.2 percent and specialty apparel retailers saw a 12.2 percent decline in same-store sales.The biggest loser was department store Saks Fifth Avenue, which saw a 23.7 percent decline in same-store sales last month. Only eight national retailers reported growth in January, with Walmart being chief among them. The giant reported a 2.1 percent increase in same-store sales. Still, a little more than half the retailers in the Metrics survey reported beating "low" expectations for January sales.

Meanwhile the ADP Small Business Report noted recently that small businesses--those with less than 50 employees--shed 175,000 jobs in January, 101,000 from the service sector alone. Small businesses have lost 456,000 jobs since the beginning of December.

"This employment decline clearly indicates that the recession has widened to include businesses of all sizes," states Joel Prakken, chair of Macroeconomic Advisers. "Though small-size businesses were somewhat more resilient than larger ones earlier in 2008, both small-sized goods-producing and service-providing businesses are now experiencing sizable job losses."

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