Mass store closures by struggling bricks-and-mortar retailers such as J.C. Penney (JCP) and Sears (SHLD) are starting to have a real economic impact. 

The retail sector slashed 30,000 jobs in March, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. That brings the total number of jobs lost in retail in March and February to nearly 61,000 as the sector grapples with right-sizing their costs amid the shift to digital shopping. 

In March, employment in general merchandise stores declined by 35,000. The BLS said employment in general merchandise has fallen by 89,000 since its most recent high in October.

"The report is troubling for anyone who has relied on jobs in retail," says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com senior economist. "I think we should continue to see bricks-and-mortar retailers experiencing weakness."

Retail leads all sectors this year with 38,464 announced cuts, 4,084 of which occurred in March, points out outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. First quarter retail job cuts are 19% higher than the 31,832 cuts announced in the same period last year.

"Retail is typically an industry in flux, but we've seen long established companies close stores and cut workers. The industry, though, is creating openings just as quickly as they are cutting," says the firm's CEO John Challenger.

There are a few exceptions amidst retail's hiring gloom and doom, however. 

Home improvement retailer Home Depot (HD) plans to hire over 80,000 new employees -- mostly temporary -- nationwide this spring. Rival Lowe's (LOW) is also staffing up to meet demand for plants and other outdoor projects, with a goal of adding 45,000 seasonal workers. Meanwhile, tech giant Amazon (AMZN) is in the middle of a plan to hire 100,000 workers in the U.S. over the next 18 months. 

Amazon says the new positions range from engineers and software developers to those seeking entry-level positions and on-the-job training.

Editors' pick: Originally published April 7.

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