173,000 Shoe Employees Have Been Laid Off or Furloughed So Far This Year

April saw the worst monthly unemployment rate on record, as a staggering 20.5 million jobs were wiped out amid the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Scores of stores, offices and businesses had been forced to shutter their doors for weeks, which led many nonessential employers — including retailers — to lay off or furlough their workers. The retail industry saw a decline of 2.1 million jobs last month alone, with clothing and clothing accessories stores recording the most losses of 739,600 jobs.

As a subset of this sector, shoe retailers also suffered a significant hit in employment numbers: According to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, job gains at footwear stores dramatically plunged in April.

The organization estimated that employment in the U.S. shoe industry is closer to 127,000, compared with initial predictions of more than 300,000 prior to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 health crisis. (These numbers includes jobs in the footwear manufacturing, repair, wholesale, distribution and retail trades.) That works out to about 173,000 shoe workers either being laid off or furloughed as the coronavirus took hold across the U.S.

“Today’s unemployment number and the corresponding FDRA employment analysis tells us that these are historically challenging times with more pain and economic destruction to come,” said FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest. “As stores begin to slowly open and our industry continues to develop its reopening strategies to welcome customers and employees in a safe and engaging environment, it is my deepest hope that we see these numbers start to move in the positive direction — as quickly as possible.”

This morning, the Labor Department reported that last month’s unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% — the worst recording since the government began tracking the data at the start of the Second World War. Over the course of several weeks, the pandemic managed to eradicate all job gains since the Great Recession and brought to a halt the U.S.’s decade-long economic expansion.

As an increasing number of states — including Colorado, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee — have begun reopening businesses in phases, many workers could end up being pushed out of unemployment. “My direct message to all those workers furloughed during this time: Stay connected with us so that we can get through this unprecedented crisis together, as one industry,” Priest added.

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