As Macy's, Kohl's and Gap furlough thousands, more stores will "absolutely" follow, expert says

Retail giants furlough workers amid pandemic

Retail giants Macy's, Kohl's and Gap have furloughed thousands of workers as the coronavirus crisis deepens, and more stores will "absolutely" follow, according to CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger. The move is just the latest sign of an economy in free fall, with precautions put in place to slow the pandemic forcing business closures and layoffs across the country.

"The job situation is going to be getting worse and worse, at least for the next few months," Schlesinger said during an appearance Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

She labeled the move a "survival plan" for Macy's, which plans to furlough the majority of its 125,000 employees. "They say this is what is necessary to ensure that they can survive the pandemic," she said.

Schlesinger pointed to 2019 figures that saw 9,300 store closures and 23 bankruptcies in the retail industry, during a notably healthier economy, as a troubling forecast for what lies ahead.

"There are about 630,000 retail outlets that are shuttered right now in the month of March, and the National Retail Federation says that they are going to lose something like over $400 billion," Schlesinger said. "L Brands, so, Victoria's Secret- they own Victoria's Secret and Ann Taylor - and every single one of these retailers is going to be forced to do this," she said, referring to future mass furloughs.

If retail employees find themselves to be one of the thousands suddenly out of work, the "number one" thing to do is apply for unemployment benefits in their state, Schlesinger said.

Next, she said, out-of-work Americans should prioritize bills, primarily food first, and then shelter. Afterward, Schlesinger recommends beginning to look for a new job, even if "retailers hope they're gonna bring these folks back."

"Whether it's a Walmart or Amazon or Dollar General or CVS, I think the act of looking gives you some sense of control over a situation which really is out of control for all of us. So, even if you just looked and stay engaged, I think that mentally that's a good move for everybody," Schlesinger said.