February 28, 2001, 12:00 AM

Laid off and looking

Retail-lated Internet jobs ranked fourth highest in layoffs for January, accounting for 14% of all jobs lost that month.

If the crashes of dot.com start-ups didn’t convince you that traditional business models will thrive in the new economy, perhaps the layoffs will. Layoffs at Internet companies have more than doubled since recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began tracking them last June. Some 5,000 job cuts between December 1999 and June 2000 swelled to a total of nearly 13,000 for January alone-54,343 for the 13 months ended Jan. 31.

Retail-related Internet jobs ranked fourth highest in layoffs, accounting for 14% of the jobs lost in January and 21% of the layoffs at Internet companies over the past year. The layoffs cut across job descriptions, from web site designers to customer service. Jobs in technology accounted for the highest percentage of layoffs, 24% in January. Also tracked were Internet company layoffs in the areas of consumer and professional services, media, financial services, entertainment and health and fitness.

Retail companies and those selling services to consumers were hardest hit early on, but layoffs have widened to include businesses supporting Internet companies as well. “Now, we’re seeing the secondary businesses suffer,” says John Challenger, company CEO. “Possibly the only Internet-related businesses that will survive are those that do not depend solely on the Internet for revenue. Brick-and-mortar businesses that use the Internet to complement their sales are likely to be the strongest players in cyberspace until more Americans have access to and are comfortable with using the Internet as their primary source for goods and services.”

But that could be a ways off. Retail, though not specifically e-retailing, saw more job cuts than any other sector of the economy in 2000, and industry watchers say the shake-out online isn’t over yet. While presenting more of a challenge for e-retail workers in marketing, content and customer service, prospects for technology-focused jobs remain bright. “Technology workers will remain very hirable,” says Challenger. “The economy continues to evolve in that direction, just not as fast.”

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