NEW YORK (AP) -- The pace of retail job cuts, which increased after Sept. 11, has accelerated in 2002 and this year's losses could be the worst in at least two decades, according to a major study to be released Monday.
During the first three months of this year, 51,078 retail job cuts have been announced, including 22,000 job at Kmart, according to the survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment research and recruiting firm.
That is already halfway toward matching last year's record of 96,741 cuts, Challenger said.
Based on the first-quarter figures, merchants are eliminating an average of 17,026 jobs per month. The firm's chief executive, John Challenger, said he expects this year's total to exceed 200,000.
"This is going to be the year in which retailers come to terms with changes of consumer behavior that was precipitated by the recession," Challenger said.
Despite reports of an improved economy, retailers-- particularly department stores and mall-based apparel retailers-- have been pummeled by consumers' continued shift toward discounters, particularly Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. The major exception is Kmart, which filed for bankruptcy in January, and is struggling to reinvent itself.
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